Ricky Nolasco left his start early on May 31, having allowed two runs in just one inning of work. It turned out that he had an ankle issue, which placed him on the disabled list after a side session didn't go well. After a short game of wait-and-see, the Twins had Nolasco fitted with orthotics - designed to restrict movement and promote recovery. There was still pain, and Nolasco was scheduled for surgery. According to Mike Berardino, it's happened.
Ricky Nolasco underwent right ankle surgery on Monday in Charlotte, N.C., as planned. Dr. Robert Anderson performed the surgery. #MNTwins— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) July 15, 2015
According to the research I've done on ankle injuries, recovery time from surgery can be from six to twelve months; six if the issue was relatively minor in the first place, but the realistic scenarios all lay out a period of eight months to a year. The prognosis, as far as Nolasco and the Twins are concerned, is that Nolasco is probably out for the year.
A lot of us will say "Okay, big deal." He's provided the Twins with alternating bouts of injury and ineffectiveness, hitting the disabled list three times since coming to Minnesota and rewarding the organization with 34 starts (191.2 innings) of 5.40 ERA baseball. His FIP with the Twins has been 4.04, implying his true talent level is significantly better than his ERA, but the combination of "not available" and "not very good" has been frustrating.
For fans, the frustration stems from the fact that Nolasco was signed to a four-year, $48 million contract which was at the time a franchise record deal for a free agent. That was more or less a market value agreement, but an ineffective pitcher that can't keep himself on the field is a guarantee to give justification to anyone who bemoaned the signing in the first place regardless of what kind of a decision it was.
Whatever we might think of Nolasco's contract, then or now, it's hard not to feel for the guy. Just like the rest of us, professional athletes don't like being unable to do what they're supposed to do. They don't enjoy being hurt, they don't enjoy being ineffective in their work, and it's natural to want to do a good job. But as it stands right now, Nolasco will finish the 2015 season on the disabled list and his four-year contract looks like one of the worst contracts the Twins have ever given out - and it's not even halfway over. Making millions of dollars might make it easier to bear, but there's no way that Nolasco will enjoy being labeled a bust.
Practically speaking, Nolasco's injury makes the rotation outlook less murky for the rest of the season; the Twins need to move one starter to get Trevor May back into the rotation. There's a fair chance that May would be in Triple-A right now if Nolasco was healthy, a move which seems like it would make the Twins worse. There's also the issue of contract insurance, which should kick in if Nolasco is out for the rest of the season. But the practical aspects of dealing with the fallout of Nolasco's injury are a separate issue from the frustration at hand.
Right now I'm not sure how the Nolasco-Twins marriage is going to play out past this season. The player is unmovable based off of both his performance and his contract, and with the abundance of in-house rotation options for 2016 it's difficult to see how the front office could justify shoe-horning him into the fray.
Regardless of how this whole thing ends up shaking down, the best word that I can find to describe the whole thing is frustration. The fan's frustration with the player and perhaps the decision making that brought him on board; the organization's frustration with circumstances beyond their control; the player's frustrations with his injuries and inability to pitch as well as he knows he's capable of pitching.