JUPITER, Fla. (AP) - Ricky Nolasco insists he is making progress.
Slowed by a sore thumb early in spring training, Nolasco is trying to catch up. He was hit hard in his second start, giving up eight hits and seven runs over two innings in the Florida Marlins' 9-2 loss to the Houston Astros on Friday.
"Even though the results were terrible, I honestly felt three or four times better than I did in my first start," Nolasco said.
In his first start on March 13, Nolasco was tagged for four runs in 1 2-3 innings against the Nationals.
Nolasco, the projected No. 2 starter, missed the last month of the 2010 season with a torn meniscus in his right knee. He has recovered from surgery and said the knee is fine.
Manager Edwin Rodriguez said there are no plans to start Nolasco later in April to give him more time to prepare.
"I would say the next start will dictate where we're at," Rodrigeuz said. "We have to be fair with him and see where he is at. The first two outings he is just getting a feel for his pitches."
Nolasco said he wasn't concerned that his velocity topped out at 89 mph.
"If you want to see me throw 94 right now, it's not going to happen," he said. "It's my second start. I don't know if people want to see me go out there and try to throw harder. As long as I feel good, that's all that matters."
Nolasco went 14-9 last year, then signed a three-year, $26.5 million contract that will pay him $6 million this year. He knows he's behind the rest of the Marlins' starters but he said he'll be ready to go on April 2.
"I'm not down on myself, I'm not panicking. No matter how good I did last year and how I'm starting off a little slow right now, I haven't changed my mind set at all or worried about anything," he said. "My arm feels great. I feel like I'm under control."
Astros left-hander J.A. Happ allowed an unearned run on four hits in five innings, his longest start of the spring.
"I was really trying to get a feel for the two-seam fastball today," Happ said, adding that he got a boost out of Houston's early lead. "It's always a nice thing, even in spring. It's definitely nice to get spotted."
Wilton Lopes, Houston's setup man, pitched another scoreless inning. He hasn't allowed a hit in six innings this spring.