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After Breaking Neck, Juan Nicaso Has Chance To Start For Rockies

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Juan Nicasio talks to CBS4's Gary Miller (credit: CBS)

Juan Nicasio talks to CBS4′s Gary Miller (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) – Pitchers and catchers report next month and it’s pretty clear what the Colorado Rockies are doing to address their starting pitching situation — they’re throwing numbers at the problem.

The Rockies have 13 potential starters, all vying for five spots. But don’t count out Juan Nicasio after what happened to him last August.

The thought of Nicasio pitching this season seemed far-fetched at best after taking a line-drive to the side of his head, but he’s back.

The best thing about the scar on the back of his neck is that he never sees it, but he never forgets it’s there. Nicasio was a fast-rising young star in the Rockies system and was just really getting his feet wet in the majors when on Aug. 5 it appears his life had changed forever.

“I thought he was going to die, I was one of the first people there. I thought it was going to be from the swelling in his head just because it was sticking out so far when I got there,” Todd Helton said.

Nicasio may be the only person who doesn’t mind talking about the accident. He said he saw the ball from the moment it left the bat.

“I saw the ball, I tried to catch it, but I (couldn’t),” Nicasio said.

The impact of the ball hitting his face caused some internal bleeding, but that was minor compared to the real problem that happened when his head slammed into the ground. Nicasio broke his neck.

Doctors inserted a metal plate and two screws into the damaged C-1 vertebrae. Such injuries commonly cause paralysis. The force of the impact was said to be comparable to a car accident or diving into shallow water and having a head hit a rock.

Carlos Gonzalez was rehabbing his wrist in Colorado Springs when the injury happened.

“I remember the game got suspended or rain delayed, so I had the opportunity to turn the TV on and watch the game,” Gonzalez said. “As soon as I turned it on I watched the line-drive hit him in his face. It was a scary moment. You never want to see that.”

“I (slept) for 3 days, you know, sleeping all day for 3 days, back to back,” Nicasio said. “When I woke up, I was scared, you know.”

He said he started thinking he would never play baseball again.

“I don’t know what happened. I can’t play baseball. I was scared, you know. But everything I think is that I’m going to play again.”

Just 12 days after the accident, Nicasio was back at Coors Field. He never, for even a second, doubted that he would pitch again. He’s already been throwing batting practice at home in the Dominican Republic. He’s now ready to resume his career with no restrictions and will report to Spring Training.

“It’s unbelievable, you know. ‘Thank you, God.’ A lot of people are surprised. It never changed my mind. (I thought), ‘I want to play again, I want to play again.’ “

Jhoulys Chacin is almost certain to crack the starting rotation. So should Drew Pomeranz and Jason Hammel. Jorge De La Rosa won’t be available until May. So Nicasio has as good a chance as any.

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