Latest Mile High Miracle: Juan Nicasio Poised to Start in 2012 After Broken Neck

Jason Muckley@@jamuckleySenior Analyst IIMarch 5, 2012

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 5: Juan Nicasio #44 of the Colorado Rockies pitches against the Washington Nationals during their game at Coors Field August 5, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

After a horrifying moment last season on August 5, 2011, when Juan Nicasio's neck was broken after being hit in the temple with a line drive by Ian Desmond of the Washington Nationals. Nicasio suffered a fractured skull and had bleeding on his brain from the impact of the liner.

Team manager, Jim Tracy admires the resilient 25-year old: "To say he has courage … I don't know if that's a strong enough choice of words."

On Sunday, Nicasio made a big impression on teammates and fans watching an intrasquad match where he pitched two innings. The Denver Post reported that: “He threw consistently at 93 to 95 mph (once hitting 97). Of his 35 pitches, 27 were strikes.”

Nicasio didn’t give up a run, allowed just two hits and hit one batter. He had two strikeouts as well in the two innings.

That’s a great sign of progress for Nicasio and the Rockies, who are hoping that he could fill in the fourth slot in the starting roster this year.

Tracy has realistic expectations for the young pitcher, but couldn’t help but gush over where he was at:

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"We will see more when he throws against another club," Tracy said. "But obviously one of the things we were looking for was his reaction as he goes to throw the pitch. Meaning, is he going to finish the pitch? Or is he going to start fielding his position too soon to protect himself? Will you see some recoil or something like that? But there was absolutely none of that. It was actually a better Juan Nicasio than the kid who came to us from (Double-A) Tulsa last year. More mature, more convinced he belongs at the major-league level."

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 5: Pitcher Juan Nicasio #44 of the Colorado Rockies is attended to by medical staff on the mound after being hit in the face by a ball while pitching against the Washington Nationals during their game at Coors Field August 5, 2011 in D
Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

Last season, some wondered if Nicasio would ever be right again. There were worries that he might never walk again, let alone toss a pitch. Now, he is back and playing at a high level this Spring, the last worry was how he might react when batted balls come screaming back at him. Would he cringe in fear, or stand tall?

There was no change in form or follow-through on Sunday. He was courageous pitching fearlessly.

Asked about it after the session Nicasio was nonchalant and calm: "I understand people are scared. I'm working hard to make the starting rotation. I don't think about what happened. It is my dream — pitching again."

He has been working very hard training, lifting weights, pitching BP to condition his body and prepare for the highly competitive position of starting pitcher in Major League Baseball. He is very focused and determined despite last season's set back.

When he looks back on the day that could have easily ended his career, Nicasio confidently declares, "The next one, I'm gonna catch."