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Marlins' high-priced pitcher Nolasco not wowing 'em as a trade chip

MIAMI -- If the Marlins are thinking about getting a big return when they trade high-priced starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco, they might want to recalculate.

The veteran right-hander Nolasco is often cited as the starting pitcher most likely to be dealt during this season, and it's no wonder considering he's a free agent after the year and with an $11.5-million 2013 salary makes nearly five times more than any of his teammates on the rebuilding Marlins. (Placido Polanco is the next highest paid Marlin at $2.75 million.)

But it's that salary, combined with a slight slippage in stuff that may prevent the Marlins from getting a haul for him.

Nolasco's fastball was an improved 91-92 mph Wednesday night, topping out at 94, but according to a scout who witnessed the Marlins' 6-1 defeat to the Nationals, Nolasco was less than stellar with his other pitches. The scout still saw the Marlins being able to market Nolasco as a serviceable starter -- though not much more than that.

One of his main selling points may be that he could be about the best thing available, assuming someone like superstar David Price doesn't hit the market. Houston's Bud Norris, the other starter most often cited as a trade chip, got lit up Wednesday.

Nolasco's 2013 price tag certainly is no selling point, however, not the way the scout spoke.

"He's decent for a club that needs a starter. There are worse No. 5 starters in the big leagues right now, but he's not the pitcher he used to be,'' the scout said.

Nolasco's numbers looks more than decent so far, as he has a 3.86 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over 23 1/2 innings, having allowed 23 hits and six walks to go with 15 strikeouts. That he is 0-2 is no fault of his own; he is on the 3-12 Marlins, after all.

The scout wasn't wowed in Nolasco's six-inning outing, calling his fastball "average,'' his changeup "a plus pitch that was incosistent tonight,'' while saying his breaking ball "used to be a lot sharper.''

The performance did represent an improvement in terms of velocity. Nolasco, 30, averaged 89-90 his first couple outings.

The Marlins are desperate for starters with Nate Eovadli and Henderson Alvarez both going down with shoulder issues on the cusp of the season. But common sense tells you Nolasco is just biding his time while building his trade value. They hope he's building it, anyway.

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