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Nolasco a constant for constantly changing Marlins

Nolasco a constant for constantly changing Marlins

Nolasco a constant for constantly changing Marlins
MIAMI -- Change is part of the game, and Ricky Nolasco has certainly seen his share of it in seven seasons with the Marlins.

As an organization, Miami is not shy about wheeling and dealing, bringing players in and shipping them out. Since Nolasco's rookie season in 2006, the organization has used 93 pitchers -- including four position players asked to toss an inning each out of necessity.

Nolasco also has played for five managers -- Joe Girardi, Fredi Gonzalez, Edwin Rodriguez, Jack McKeon and Ozzie Guillen. It's about to be six, as Mike Redmond has now stepped in to lead the franchise.

Still, for all that has gone on around the organization, Nolasco has been a constant in the rotation. The 29-year-old from Southern California quietly goes about his business, taking the mound every fifth day.

For his consistency, Nolasco has established a number of franchise records, including wins (76), innings pitched (1,113 1/3) and strikeouts (911).

"I feel proud about that," the right-hander said. "I am just thankful for the opportunity that these guys have given me. I've been through a lot of different teammates here, a lot of different coaches and managers, but I'm proud to be here and proud to set those kinds of records for this team and this organization."

In their history, the Marlins certainly have had higher-profile starters. Josh Beckett was a brash fireballer who was a major reason the team won the 2003 World Series.

Dontrelle Willis, the only Marlin to win 20 games in a season, was flashy and created "D-Train Mania," which energized the market and brought national attention to the franchise.

A.J. Burnett had electrifying stuff, and he threw a no-hitter in his Marlins tenure.

In the early years of the organization, Kevin Brown had seasons where he was simply overpowering -- like in 1996, when he posted a 1.89 ERA, which remains the team's single-season mark. Al Leiter also threw a no-hitter as a Marlin. Brown and Leiter were big parts of the 1997 World Series championship team.

Even today, Nolasco's longtime teammate Josh Johnson also has enjoyed a stellar career with the club. When healthy, Johnson is one of the top right-handers in the game. The key for him, of course, is health.

The Marlins have had their share of established starters. But none has taken the mound more regularly for the club than Nolasco. He entered 2012 with 64 career wins, four shy of Willis' club record. On May 6 at San Diego, Nolasco tied the D-Train.

Two weeks later, on May 22, at home against the Rockies, Nolasco became the franchise's all-time victories leader. What's next?

"Just keep going out there and winning ballgames," Nolasco said. "That's the No. 1 goal."

There will be plenty of incentive for Nolasco in 2013, the final year of his contract. He is set to earn $11.5 million, and Nolasco is eligible for free agency in '14, unless he signs an extension.

There is speculation the Marlins may shop Nolasco and/or Johnson, who will make $13.75 million in 2013. But indications are the organization is hopeful of building around a rotation that is anchored at the top by Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Nolasco.

Miami endured a rough first season at Marlins Park in 2012, and like much of the team, Nolasco had his highs and lows. He finished 12-13 wtih a 4.48 ERA while throwing 191 innings.

"There were ups and downs, but to finish strong like I did was a positive," Nolasco said. "Just being healthy and doing everything I could do -- no regrets. It's pretty much impossible to go through a whole season without struggling at some point. I started off good, hit a little bump in the middle and finished off well. I just try to carry that over into next season."

If the Marlins are to rebound next year and become a contender, they will rely on Nolasco and the rotation.

"We just have to continue to stay healthy," he said. "That's the main thing. This year was a big learning lesson for a lot of guys. Obviously, we've got to continue doing our jobs. There are some things we can't control. We can't let anything affect what our main concern and job is. We have to be more consistent, which is something that can always get better."

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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