SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Smiling, laughing and standing tall in front of his locker, Colorado Rockies pitcher Juan Nicasio mixes English with Spanish as he tries to convey exactly what it means for him to be back at spring training.
“I had everyone telling me, Nicasio you’re lucky that you can walk. It was dangerous. It was scary,” Nicasio sighs with exasperation.
Scary is an understatement.
On August 5, 2011, in a game against the Washington Nationals, Nicasio was struck in the right side of the head by a line drive off the bat of Ian Desmond. The impact broke his neck and, after surgery, left him with 2 screws in his vertebrae and a small plate in the back of his head.
Rockies head trainer Keith Dugger recounts the tragedy.
“I’ve never seen a more serious injury in all my years on this job,” Dugger told us. “He was telling me he couldn’t feel his feet and that it felt like lightning was running through him.”
Less than 7 months later, not only is Nicasio pitching again, but in his words, pitching well.
“My fastball is still hitting 96 to 97 (miles per hour) and my changeup…that’s my pitch…it’s still real good.”
Manager Jim Tracy agrees.
“It’s been something to marvel at, it really has,” the Rockies skipper tells us. “There’s not one thing that we’re doing out there that he’s not. Simply put, he showed up here to Spring Training with every intention that he’ll be part of this rotation when we start on April 6th.”
As the saying goes, if you fall off of a horse, you get back on. The same goes for Nicasio on the pitcher’s mound.
The 24-year-old from Dominican Republic is back on the mound and recently threw his first live batting practice of the spring.
“It went well. I threw good…real good,” he says.
And when whether or not he’s scared of history repeating itself.
“I’m not scared. Not worried. I told people I would pitch again.”
And pitch again he is.