Ricky Nolasco is saying all the right things about his 7 1/2 years with the Marlins and how much he will miss his former teammates. But the smile on his face Sunday as he packed his belongings in the clubhouse told the real story.
Nolasco has been freed, finally exiled from Miami. But that’s only part of the reward. He is headed for Los Angeles, a city one hour west of where he was raised, and he will be playing for the team he rooted for as a kid, the Dodgers.
“The phone has been non-stop,” Nolasco said before catching a flight to Phoenix where he will join his new team Monday.
“Obviously, I’ve never dealt with anything like that to where the phone was just blowing up. Everybody is just excited, everybody from back home, even people who don’t have my number, on Twitter and stuff.”
Nolasco, 30, was traded late Saturday for three right-handed pitching prospects, two of whom will pitch out of the bullpen for the Marlins’ Triple-A affiliate in New Orleans and one who will start for Single-A Jupiter. He received hugs and well wishes from his former teammates Sunday, one of them being Giancarlo Stanton, a fellow Southern California native who, like Nolasco, was outspoken about his unhappiness with the Marlins’ fire sale last year.
“He’s going to the perfect spot for him,” Stanton said. “To be able to go to where you want without having a choice is always a little extra bonus. He’ll have fun.”
Stanton, though, showed restraint when asked if he were jealous of Nolasco.
“No!” he said.
The Marlins accomplished their main objective with the trade, which was ridding themselves of the approximate $5.7 million that remained on Nolasco’s $11.5 million 2013 contract. Miami opened the season with a payroll of about $37 million, second lowest in baseball, just ahead of Houston.
Nolasco, who is 5-8 with a 3.85 ERA in 18 starts this season and will be used as the Dodgers’ fourth starter, is set to become a free agent at the end of the season.
Manager Mike Redmond credited Nolasco for helping mentor the Marlins’ young rotation, which includes All-Star Jose Fernandez, 20; Jacob Turner, 22; Nathan Eovaldi, 23; and Henderson Alvarez, 23.
“Ricky’s done a great job in helping these guys by example,” Redmond said. “They’ll miss that, but at the same time they saw how he worked and how he prepared himself every day.”
Nolasco believes he has left the Marlins in better shape than they were at the beginning of the season.
“They’ve played really well of late, especially with the young starting pitching they have,” Nolasco said. “Guys came back off the DL, and they’ve really started to swing the bat. They’ve got a good thing going here.”
The three pitchers Miami received in return for Nolasco are mid-level prospects.
Angel Sanchez, 23, will join Jupiter, and Josh Wall, 26, and Steven Ames, 25, are headed for New Orleans. The prospects were ranked between Nos. 19 and 36 in the Dodgers’ system by a website that covers the team.
Veteran Kevin Slowey will replace Nolasco in the rotation for the time being, but Larry Beinfest, the Marlins’ president of baseball operations, hinted that the team will be talking a look at several prospects in that spot later in the season.
“There are a lot of interesting things we can to in the second half as part of this plan,” Beinfest said. “A lot of different options we have as far as pitching we may want to take a look at in the second half.”
Noteworthy: The Marlins recalled Chris Hatcher from New Orleans to replace Nolasco on the roster. Hatcher converted 24 of 25 save opportunities for the Zephyrs.