Surprise, Ariz. Juan Nicasio made it easy for Colorado manager Walt Weiss to make it official.
Nicasio, coming back from a broken neck in 2011 and an injured left knee last season, allowed one run on three hits over five innings as the Rockies beat the Kansas City Royals, 7-2, on Tuesday.
“He’s in the rotation,” Weiss announced after Nicasio’s victory.
Nicasio gave up a home run to Mike Moustakas in the second inning, then pitched out of jams in the fourth and fifth innings when the Royals had two runners on and one out.
Nicasio was limited to 13 starts in 2011 when a line drive off his head on Aug. 5 broke a vertebra in his neck. He made 11 starts last season before the knee problem ended his season in June.
“He’s a guy who hasn’t pitched a lot with a broken neck and the knee injury last year,” pitching coach Jim Wright said. “He hasn’t thrown a pitch in seven months until this spring. He’s made tremendous improvement over the last three or four starts. He’s still making incremental progress. Today was a big step for his confidence. I was pleased with his changeup and his slider. They’re in developmental stages.”
“It’s all about confidence now. He’s comfortable on the mound. His fastball confidence is there. It’s getting everything else together,” he said.
With the count full in the fifth inning and two runners on, Nicasio struck out Alex Gordon with a changeup.
“He was outstanding,” Weiss said. “He threw a lot of changeups. It’s the best I’ve seen his changeup. When you’ve got to gear up for 97 and 98 (mph) sometimes and you drop that on you, it makes it really tough for the hitter.”
Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie, who started last season 3-9 with a 6.35 ERA with Colorado before a July 20 trade to the Royals, took the loss. After retiring the first nine batters, Guthrie gave up three runs in the fifth and another in the sixth.