Juan Nicasio has had a rocky start to his Big League career. In his first 55 starts, he has a 4.92 ERA, and in his last two seasons that number has been above 5. He has given up a lot of hits, and as a result has been a below average pitcher. But Juan Nicasio is now 27 years old and still very talented. He is also the first major league pitcher to ever come back from a broken neck, so we’ll all be rooting for him.
It would be great to see this guy, who has been so crippled with injuries throughout his short career, take a huge step. And the signs, at least to this point, are good. The latest sign that this is Nicasio’s breakout year came yesterday, when the northpaw struck out seven in five hitless, economical innings. Nicasio walked just one, and was only removed from the game because of a cracked fingernail (even when on a good day, the injuries come back to bite him). But the fingernail isn’t going to hold him out of any action, and the stats really don’t matter much in spring training.
What does matter is that Nicasio’s control, so great in the minor leagues but about average in the majors, has been good this spring training. Another thing that matters is that Nicasio is finally fully healthy, although a knock on wood is definitely necessary. Rockie faithful have not always been happy with Juan Nicasio, but his confidence in himself is high, and just as importantly manager Walt Weiss has offered strong praise of Nicasio, coming close to saying the pitcher has turned the corner. “”He showed up in a much better place when he had a offseason to work out for the first time in three years,” Weiss said of Nicasio.
Juan Nicasio is locked in as the #4 starter, but it’s more out of necessity than anything else. Jhoulys Chacin is hurt, and the top prospect are a little while away. But now, with improved offspeed pitches (his slider and splitter look much better), better health, and the attention of his manager, it looks like he has turned the corner. I certainly hope he breaks out this year, both because it would be great for the team and because, after all he has been through, he definitely deserves it. When other pitchers would have quit, Nicasio has kept chugging along, and I think it will pay off this season. Let’s hope so, anyway.
Other key performances from Tuesday’s 4-1 win over the White Sox:
D.J. LeMahieu went 3-4 with a triple. LeMahieu has really played well this spring, and we all know how much the manager loves him. LeMahieu is hitting .357 in the spring, and, if he hits even within 100 points of that in the regular season, he should hold onto the second base job for the foreseeable future.
Jordan Pacheco went 1-3 with a homer. He must have read the news that Michael McKenry was moved to the 40-man roster, because his status as backup catcher is very much in danger right now. This catcher battle is going to come down to the wire, so Pacheco must continue to hit well to assure himself of a spot on the roster.
Matt Belisle threw a perfect inning, and it’s reassuring to see the veteran now looking ready for the season after having a rocky start to spring training.
Roster Spots Still Up for Grabs:
5th starter: Jordan Lyles vs. Franklin Morales. Current leader- Morales
Backup catcher: Jordan Pacheco vs. Michael McKenry. Current leader- dead heat.
5th outfielder: Corey Dickerson vs. Charlie Blackmon. Current leader- Dickerson
Bullpen: Tommy Kahnle vs. Chad Bettis vs. Chris Martin. Current leaders- Kahnle and Bettis*
Backup infield: Charlie Culberson vs. Paul Janish vs. Ryan Wheeler. Current leader- your guess is as good as mine, but my guess is Janish.
*- Franklin Morales takes this roster spot if Lyles makes the rotation