Of these two pitchers, one’s name is written in the starting rotation in ink. The other’s name is penciled in, but darn it if a lot of people don’t have their eraser ready to make a change. Not long ago, you would have assumed Juan Nicasio was the one whose status was stable, while Jeff Francis was the one fighting for a spot. After Francis performed well for the Rockies in 2012 and Nicasio continued to struggle to find his secondary pitches, they have seemingly switched places.
On Thursday both pitched well against the Cincinnati Reds in a 4-3 victory. This in a game that featured a lot of good pitching and some stellar defense as well (the Rockies turned a triple play…like, a real triple play…5-4-3…for real!). Surely a lot of analysis and discussion will be dedicated to the two scoreless innings tossed by Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman. With him the question is: should he be converted to a starter or should he continue to serve as the team’s closer? A similar, albeit not so high profile, question looms for Nicasio. Should he be a starter or come out of the bullpen?
Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post notes that Nicasio’s fastball was devastatingly effective. He touched 98 MPH, worked low in the zone and got ground ball outs. The question is, does that success show a guy on his way to cracking the starting rotation? Or does it validate the opinion that he would be more effective as a relief pitcher?
Francis continued his spotless work in the Cactus League, working 3 innings and surrendering only 3 hits. Aided by the triple play, Francis made the case once again that he can be a solid member of the Rockies’ rotation. As with last season, the key for Francis is realistic expectations. We all got over it that he is no longer the staff ace that he was in 2007. But now that we see him as a solid back-end kind of guy? Yep, that can definitely work, and it looks like it will.
The Rockies take the field Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers.