Juan Nicasio didn't win anything today.
He didn't guarantee himself a spot in the Colorado Rockies starting rotation. He didn't prove anything in regards to his most pressing area of concern in 2013 -- his regular inability to pitch deep into games due to frequent high pitch-count innings -- because he was only asked to pitch three full innings.
But today, Juan Nicasio made a statement. And it was very, very, encouraging.
His final line: 3.0 IP, 4 K, 2 H, 0 BB, 0 R.
And as a sweet bit of serenity, Nicasio got out of the only trouble he faced by striking out Tyler Colvin looking with two runners on base.
As I mentioned before the game, Juan the Man can be a key piece for this team by solidifying the starting rotation and giving the young guys (Butler, Gray, Lyles) more time to develop...if he pitches well. You couldn't have hoped for much more out of him than what he put up today.
Purple Row community member Chacinisthefuture remarked:
"...throwing strikes and playing with a change-up while K'ing guys on the slider in the dirt."
He had three ground-outs and zero fly outs.
Juan Nicasio said the health of left knee making huge difference. Can finish over his front slider more consistently. #Rockies— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) March 4, 2014
New "closer" LaTroy Hawkins replaced Nicasio in the fourth inning and gave up doubles to Brandon Belt and Tyler Colvin. Tony Abreu followed with a single and the total damage was two runs on three hits. Purple Row's Greg Stanwood offered this observation on Hawkins' outing:
"As I had mentioned earlier in the week when Belisle struggled, a lot of times the more veteran-y guys end up having uglier Springs. They're not out trying to perform to earn spots. they're just there to get in shape, maybe play with some certain pitches or what have you."
So nothing much to worry about with Hawkins. Matt Belisle came into the game next and worked a mostly clean fifth inning, giving up only a single to Juan Perez.
Yohan Flande (Flande the Mande?) blew through the sixth on three consecutive ground-outs. He stayed in the game in the seventh and would give up three singles and a run in but no further damage.
Pedro Hernandez took over on the mound in the eighth and ninth innings for the Rockies and kept the ledger clean. All told for Rockies pitching on the day: three runs given up, 13 hits, and zero errors for the defense behind them.
More from Greg Stanwood who knows more about these things than me (or maybe anyone):
"Two innings for each of Flande and Hernandez. Implies that both will be looked at as AAA starters as well as relief options."
On the other side of the ball the Rockies offense was uninspiring but lacking most of it's heft. With no Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez (among others) the sticks never came alive and the Rockies lone run (until the ninth) came when Ryan Wheeler doubled in Brandon Barnes who had singled in the prior at-bat.
Charlie Blackmon and Paul Janish each grabbed a base hit in one of two at-bats, Blackmon making marginal progress in his battle for a spot on the opening day roster.
Nolan Arenado was 1-2 bringing his meaningless Spring Training average to .444. He also reignited his perpetual battle with the BABIP dragon:
Nolan Arenado with long, loud out to CF.. #Rockies trail 2-0 B4... Madison Bumgarner shut them out for 3 innings..— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) March 4, 2014
The Rockies managed to get two men on base in both the seventh and ninth innings. The seventh inning rally was killed when, after keeping it going with a Tim Wheeler walk, Jason Pridie was asked to sac bunt and neither runner would move again.
In the ninth, however, after Wheeler reached again (this time via base hit) Pridie was allowed to swing away and lined a single to right field, scoring Ben Paulsen and bringing the Rockies to within a run. Unfortunately the rally would end there as prospects Tom Murphy and Christian Adames would ground out back-to-back to end the game.
Offensive tally: two runs on eight hits and the only extra base hit of the day being Ryan Wheeler's RBI double.
But the story of the day for Rockies fans was Juan Nicasio.
Juan Nicasio didn't win anything today.
But he walked to the starting line and announced to all the runners in the race, "Anyone who wants a spot in the rotation has got to go through me."