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Updated: November 28th, 2013 6:09pm
Zulgad: With Nolasco signing, Twins assured on upgrade Opening Day

Zulgad: With Nolasco signing, Twins assured on upgrade Opening Day

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

The Minnesota Twins seemed to use the dartboard theory when they landed on Vance Worley as their opening day starter last April against Detroit.

Worley had been acquired as part of the offseason trade that sent outfielder Ben Revere to the Philadelphia Phillies and the Twins hope was that he would be an important part of the rotation.

That didn't happen.

Worley ended up going 1-5 with a 7.21 earned-run average before being dispatched to Triple-A Rochester in May. The right-hander didn't even survive the rest of the season in Rochester and after battling shoulder issues he was shut down in late August and sent home.

The fact Worley wound up as a massive disappointment - but had managed to get the opening-day assignment - was fitting considering the Twins' starting rotation finished as the worst in the majors with a combined 5.26 ERA.

This sent Twins general manager Terry Ryan into the offseason looking for legitimate help at the top of the rotation. The goal: A pitcher who would arrive at spring choice as the clear-cut choice to start the 2014 opener on March 31 against the Chicago White Sox.

We now know who that guy is going to be.

On Wednesday evening, it was reported the Twins had agreed with righty Ricky Nolasco on a four-year, $49 million contract that contains a $13 million option for 2018, or a $1 million buyout.

Nolasco will turn 31 years old on Dec. 13 and while his signing might not excite the masses, it does give the Twins a pitcher who has a history of being durable.

Nolasco has thrown at least 185 innings in five of the past six years, compiling an 89-75 record with a 4.37 ERA. Last season, he went 5-8 with a 3.85 ERA in 18 starts with the Miami Marlins before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in July.

He then went 8-3 with a 3.52 ERA in the final three months of the season pitching for a Dodgers team that won the National League West. Nolasco pitched a combined 199 1/3 innings, a total that was more than any Twins starter threw in 2013. Righthander Kevin Correia led the Twins with 185 1/3 innings pitched.

At this point, the Twins' 2014 rotation could look like this: Nolasco, Correia, Samuel Deduno, Scott Diamond and Kyle Gibson.

That is subject to change considering the Twins are trying to bring back Mike Pelfrey on a two-year contract, according to the CBS Sports website, and could still look to the free-agent market for more help.

Twins ownership made it clear that Ryan would be given the ability to spend this offseason after three dreadful years of on-the-field play that saw them end up having to start a guy like Worley in the opener.

Nolasco's contract, when it's made it official, will be the richest the Twins have given in free agency. There is still a chance Ryan could look to make another signing, or a trade, for a pitcher that will provide competition for the opening-day start.

For now, however, at least we have confirmation the Twins are going to be legitimate players in free agency and not simply spend the winter window shopping.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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