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Nolasco sheds weight, but not confidence

Nolasco sheds weight, but not confidence

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Nolasco sheds weight, but not confidence
JUPITER, Fla. -- Ricky Nolasco's numbers a year ago may have been inconsistent, but the right-hander's demeanor never wavered.

Quiet and confident, Nolasco makes no alibis regarding his disappointing 10-12 mark and 4.67 ERA in 2011.

In a season that spiraled downward for the Marlins in June, there were plenty of frustrations felt throughout the organization. Nolasco's record may not have been what he'd have liked, but the 29-year-old takes pride in the fact he made 33 starts and toughed out 206 innings.

"I know the type of pitcher I am and the type of pitcher I should be," the right-hander said. "I'm not the type who is going to make excuses. Whatever happened last year, was last year. I gutted it out to make all my starts, and I just want to be out there and be the pitcher I know I can. I'll be fine."

Mentally and physically, Nolasco feels different this Spring Training. He's in his better shape, shedding 15 pounds from the end of last year.

After spending much of the offseason at his home in California, Nolasco arrived in South Florida on Jan. 3. Four days a week, he trained with some other big league players, including Gaby Sanchez, Freddy Garcia and Joel Pineiro, in Coral Gables.

"I feel good," Nolasco said. "I'm lighter and have more energy. It's good in the morning workout to have more energy. Instead of going home, being lazy and wanting to sleep, you can be more productive."

Pitching coach Randy St. Claire sees a change in Nolasco from a year ago.

"He looks like he's in very good shape," St. Claire said. "Not only the look, but the way he is performing, the running and that kind of stuff. You can tell when a guy has been working out and when a guy hasn't been. Just from where they are in the group when they're running. If they're at the end of the group, they didn't do a whole lot. Ricky's been right up at the front of the group, so I know he's been doing what he had to do during the offseason."

Nolasco is expected to make his first exhibition start on Wednesday against Florida International University at Marlins Park.

Being healthy at the start of camp is a refreshing change from a year ago, when Nolasco entered camp with some nagging injuries.

Shortly before Spring Training opened in 2011, he injured his right thumb while working out on his own at home. The setback came at a time he also was recovering from a right meniscus tear. The thumb was particularly bothersome, causing him to miss about half of the Grapefruit League games.

"Stay healthy, be consistent and go out there and make all my starts," Nolasco said. "I want to go out there and try to help this team win."

Entering his seventh big league season, Nolasco ranks among the top pitchers in Marlins history.

A year ago, he entered as the No. 2 starter behind Josh Johnson. Now, he is in the mix with Carlos Zambrano and Anibal Sanchez for the three, four and five spots.

"I think he wants to show people that last year isn't who he was or who he is," St. Claire said. "That he's more consistent than that."

Nolasco has a 64-51 career record, and he is four wins shy of tying Dontrelle Willis' club mark of 68.

A bright spot Nolasco takes out of last year is he developed a new pitch.

"Last year was a big learning process. I battled with some things," he said. "But I discovered a big pitch for me -- a sinker. I got a ton of ground balls last year. It was a really good pitch that became important to me. It's just going to help me out a lot this year."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["spring_training" ] }
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