Ricky Nolasco won 11 games as a rookie with the Florida Marlins this past season. The 24-year-old right-hander was one of four first-year Marlins starters to reach double-digit wins, falling just one victory shy of Dontrelle Willis, Scott Olsen and Josh Johnson for the team lead despite making just 22 starts. Nolasco recently answered some questions for MLBPLAYERS.com:
MLBPLAYERS.com: How enjoyable was your first big-league season?
Nolasco: It was everything and more that I thought it would be. It was a great feeling being in the big leagues and being a part of this team. I'm happy that I was able to contribute, to try and help us win games. The big-league life is special, and it's something that I don't take for granted at all. I'm happy coming to the park every day.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Are you satisfied with your results?
Nolasco: I'm happy, but I'm not satisfied. I'm never satisfied. There is always room for improvement, no matter how well you are doing. I keep striving for improvement, and that's my plan for the rest of my career. I just want to get better and better. That's what you have to do to be here for a long time.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Did you feel like you were ready for this challenge?
Nolasco: Yeah. I honestly thought I was ready and feel fortunate that I got the opportunity from the Marlins. I thank them for that, and I wasn't going to let this opportunity pass me by. I was at Spring Training thinking to myself that I was going to make the club. Things worked out really well after I put in a lot of hard work. I made the squad initially out of the bullpen.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What did you think about your club's playoff chance back in the spring?
Nolasco: The way I looked at it was that we had to take it one game at a time. We started out a little rough, but guys believed, and we started hanging onto games. We learned how to win slowly, and everyone's confidence rose to where we knew we could compete.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You were one of four rookie starters with your club. Did you ever look at it that way?
Nolasco: It's the only way I know how to break in. I don't know what it would have been like with a lot of older guys. It was definitely fun being in the Majors. We did have some older guys, some veterans, and they really helped us out. They took care of the rookies and reminded us that we are good enough to be here every day, and that has really helped.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You had a lot of strikeouts while in the Minors. Do you consider yourself a strikeout pitcher?
Nolasco: I'm not a strikeout pitcher. I averaged one per inning in the Minor Leagues, but one of the things I have learned quickly here is that you can't try and strike guys out. I don't care how I get outs, as long as I get them. It's more important to keep my pitch count down, throw strikes and go deep in the game.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What was your highlight of this past season?
Nolasco: A game in Philly where I had a no-hitter through 6 2/3 innings. That was pretty exciting. I also hit a home run against the Cubs, which was pretty cool. My goal remains to be consistent every day and to try and help the ballclub in whatever way I can.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You were originally Cubs property. Did that home run feel really good considering the fact that they traded you last winter?
Nolasco: They had drafted me, and that was my organization the past few years, so sure.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Off the field, in South Beach, what did you do for fun?
Nolasco: I didn't go to the beach, but I like to go out at night. My girlfriend is from there, and she likes to show me around the area. I really like the area, and I will ultimately move to South Florida.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Your brother was drafted by Milwaukee. Is he still playing ball?
Nolasco: He did pitch for them last year in their Minor League system. Right now, he is done with baseball, and he works for the city back in Beaumont (Calif.), doing land surveying.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.