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40 in 40: Vidal Nuno

Vidal Nuno is a soft throwing lefty with no out pitch. Yet, he's here.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

You remember that quote Ichiro gave about Cleveland don't you?

"To tell the truth, I'm not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to. If I ever saw myself saying I'm excited going to Cleveland, I'd punch myself in the face, because I'm lying."

We love that quote because we love Ichiro. Also Cleveland's role in the American sports landscape is to play the perpetual punchline. Cleveland is for scorn. It embodies failure, corruption, collapse, unfilled promise, and a childhood dream fulfilled.

Wait, that last one doesn't fit, does it?


Vidal Nuno became a Mariner as an afterthought. When Jack Zduriencik inexplicably decided that 28 plate appearances of Welington Castillo was all he needed to see before shipping him to Arizona for Mark Trumbo and his "veteran power," few outside of places like this very website paid Nuno much attention.

At first glance there is almost nothing to catch the eye when you watch him pitch. At a position where an increased emphasis on fitness and athleticism has given us shining testaments to the human form like Jake Arrieta and the Mariners' own Taijuan Walker, Nuno looks, to be frank, like a preschooler's cotton ball snowman come to life.

The pitches that Nuno throws are similarly unimpressive. His fastball has never averaged 90 MPH. His slider, curve, and two-seamer collectively elicit a response of "meh, meh-er, and meh-est." Vidal Nuno is the guy who scouts evaluate only on a day when they're scouting the other team's pitcher. That report will get filed, the same way you fill out that spreadsheet at work, or clean out those gutters at home; another menial task in a life full of them.


Vidal Nuno grew up south of San Diego, and enjoyed the city. By his own admission, he had a good time in high school.

"It's a big city. It's a fast-paced life. It was a lot of going out and not hitting the gym, not focusing on baseball."

After graduating with grades so poor that he wasn't eligible to receive a scholarship to a D-1 program, Nuno did what all souls in need of less stimuli do: He went to Kansas. There at Baker College, Nuno stayed out of trouble–primarily I assume because it wasn't within a day's drive–and focused on baseball.

Still, by 2009 Nuno had done little but prove he could touch the upper 80's from the left side of the mound, which pushed him to the draft's outer reaches. The Cleveland Indians selected him in the 48th round, 1,444 picks after the Nationals grabbed Stephen Strasburg. It was then that Cleveland became the dream.


Vidal Nuno's role in the 2016 Mariners is not totally clear. Due to 2015's many torments Nuno started 10 games for Seattle last year, posting a 5.59 FIP. Ah, but remember that lovely collection of consonants reminding one to recall Gawlowski channeling Jazayerli - Never give up on a left-handed pitcher without trying him in the bullpen.


Vidal Nuno is almost certainly not going to be an effective starter for a major league team. But with Charlie Furbush returning from an injury and the rest of the bullpen riddled with questions marks, Nuno will have every chance to earn a job as a lefty specialist. Unless you want to be the 2015 Mariners, you need at least one of those.

The sad truth is that for most of us, our dreams don't come true, even dreams as pedestrian as Cleveland. Cut in 2011, Nuno headed home to San Diego, an unemployed 23-year-old with little education and no direction. He called his parents, ready to retire, and they told him to keep pitching. Somewhere, anywhere, that would take him. So Nuno kept pitching, this time in independent ball for a Frontier League team named after a fictional Charlie Sheen baseball player, the Washington Wild Things.

It was there that Nuno reportedly began to master his changeup, the best pitch in his arsenal, and it was there that the Yankees saw something good enough to give him a chance. Nuno started from the bottom. Remember how you roll your eyes when you hear about a 25 year old in A ball? That was Vidal Nuno in 2011, recreating Sherman's March on a bus through the South Atlantic League, sharing a bench with players half a decade his junior. The term for that 25 year old is "organizational player", a polite way to say "we needed to complete the roster."


There are so many baseball players like Vidal Nuno--Guys who spend high school as gifted but unfocused stars, who realize too late that what talent they had wasn't enough on its own to get them through life.

There are so many baseball players like Vidal Nuno€”--marginal pitchers with no discernible out pitch that hang on to the dream far too long, making $300 a month to ride buses across the Midwest.

There are so many baseball players like Vidal Nuno--€”fringy left-handed major leaguers whose primary currency is their ability to absorb an amount of abuse within the tolerance threshold of the paying public.

There are so many baseball players like Vidal Nuno--washed out starters trying to hang on to a major league career by getting 1-6 outs an appearance. These players have little upside, few fans, and a future that can be derailed by two bad weeks at work. He's a mortal in a game played by gods, and I'll be rooting for him.