The Minnesota Twins have an outright competition on their hands for the final spot in the team's pitching rotation.
With Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes and Ervin Santana already locked into starting spots and Manager Paul Molitor saying that Tyler Duffey is likely penciled into the rotation, it leaves Tommy Milone, Ricky Nolasco and Trevor May all competing for the fifth spot.
Nolasco's agent, Matt Sosnick, made it clear to 1500 ESPN that the veteran right-hander would not be happy working in the bullpen.
So what other options are out there?
The team does not have any minor league options remaining for Nolasco. Trading him after two subpar, injury-plagued seasons wouldn't seem to give Minnesota much value either – plus the Twins would likely have to eat a large portion of his remaining contract.
The blog Twinkie Town thinks Minnesota's best option may be to designate Nolasco for assignment and force him to decide if he is willing to accept the demotion and continue to start for Triple-A Rochester, or walk away from the remaining $24 million on his contract.
Nolasco pitched well on Tuesday, tossing three scoreless innings in a Twins split squad game in Fort Myers. Additionally, his fastball reached 94 mph on the Hammond Stadium radar gun and he appears to be free of the injury problems that slowed him last season.
"The way I look at it is that, when I'm trying to get ready to pitch in a game, I'm trying to get people out and it doesn't matter if I'm first up or last up in the rotation," Nolasco said after the game Tuesday. "I know how I feel. I'm confident with what will happen. I'm feeling as good as I have in a long time."
Joe Vavra, who managed that game, didn't want to give too many details on how Nolasco is handling the situation.
"He's aware of the situation and he's got to go out and make his pitches and basically see where it leads to," Vavra told 1500 ESPN. "I'm not sure about those dynamics, that's out of my hands."
Can Nolasco turn it around? The Twins hope so, but if he wants to start for Minnesota, he may have to accept a professional step backwards before he'll have another opportunity.