SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The comebackers are still a bit of a challenge for Juan Nicasio, though everything else is going very smoothly.
The Colorado right-hander, who had his rookie season end last Aug. 5 when a line drive by Washington’s Ian Desmond hit him in the head and his fall to the ground caused a broken neck, tossed four impressive innings Wednesday night as the Rockies beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-4 in a matchup of split squads.
Nicasio allowed one unearned run in his 79-pitch outing and hasn’t allowed an earned run in seven innings this spring.
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“I threw might fastball inside and my slider for strikes in the dirt and I felt all my pitches were very good,” said Nicasio, who needed surgery to repair the C-1 vertebrae in his neck. “I’m ready for a whole game I had good command of my pitches and every day I’m feeling better and better.”
Arizona hit two balls up the middle — one off the bat of Chris Young that Nicasio was unable to field — but he didn’t appear to shy away from either play and said he feels comfortable on the mound in all situations.
“I’m not scared. It’s not scary,” he said.
At the time of his injury last year, he was 4-4 with 4.14 ERA and was coming off a career-high 10 strikeout effort against San Diego.
Carlos Gonzalez hit a three-run homer in the first inning and added an RBI single in the third as the Rockies scored seven times in the first three innings.
The Diamondbacks, who lost to San Diego earlier in the day, have lost nine of their last 11 spring games.
Jonathan Griffin hit a long home run for Arizona in the ninth inning off Colorado closer Rafael Betancourt. Ryan Roberts had a pair of singles and Young added a two-run single for the Diamondbacks.
Gonzalez, who had only three singles in his 15 spring at-bats coming in, homered deep to right center off Arizona starter Josh Collmenter to score Dexter Fowler and Jonathan Herrera, who also had three hits for Colorado. He drove in Herrera again in the third with a single up the middle off Wade Miley.
“I’ve been working on counts, trying to see more and better pitches,” Gonzalez said. “(The home run) was a change-up inside, and I was expecting that pitch at that count (2-2). It was right on the inside corner, really good to pull.”
Collmenter, who missed his last start due to right forearm tightness, struck out two in two innings. He allowed a walk to Fowler and an infield single off his glove by Herrera before allowing Gonzalez’s shot.
“I felt a little jumpy and when that happens, I tend to leave the ball up,” Collmenter said. “That was not the greatest way to start the game.”
The good news was his forearm felt fine.
“It was good to back on the mound and it was important to get back there, and get back into a routine,” he said. “Now I’m ready to go every fifth day, and get back in groove.”