SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Juan Nicasio thinks he’s headed for the best season of his young career.
Nicasio pitched four scoreless innings, Kyle Parker drove in five runs and the Colorado Rockies beat the Kansas City Royals 10-1 on Sunday.
Nicasio allowed one hit, struck out three and walked one.
The 6-foot-3 right-hander has struggled with injuries since he made his major league debut for Colorado in 2011. He broke his neck later that summer when he was struck by a line drive, and a left knee injury ended his 2012 season after 11 starts.
He went 9-9 with a 5.14 ERA in 31 starts last year, and thinks he can better those numbers this season.
“For sure,” Nicasio said. “My body is feeling stronger. Now I have more experience. In 2011 and 2012 I was not pitching too much. I was hurting in my neck and my knee. Last year I played all year. I’m feeling more confident now.”
In two Cactus League starts, Nicasio has seven scoreless innings, striking out seven and allowing three hits.
“I was working my fastball down in the zone and my slider was really good,” Nicasio said.
Parker, a former Clemson quarterback who was selected by the Rockies in the first round of the 2010 draft, hit a two-run double in the seventh off Royals closer Greg Holland. He added a bases-clearing double in the Rockies’ four-run ninth.
The Rockies’ 14-hit attack included a two-run single for Wilin Rosario in the first. Paul Janish went 3 for 3 and Corey Dickerson homered in the sixth.
The Royals have lost three straight and are 0-3-1 in their past four games.
Rockies: Omar Infante’s first-inning single was the only hit for Kansas City against Nicasio.
“He’s throwing his slider close enough to the zone that he’s getting swings and chases,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. “Last year, particularly early on, that pitch was a ball out of his hands. Now he’s commanding his secondary stuff. He threw some splits today. We’re going to encourage him to keep throwing that. His secondary stuff overall is much better than it was.”
Royals: Bruce Chen gave up two runs on three consecutive hits in the first inning, but only a single after that. He worked three innings in all.
“They were just really aggressive,” Royals catcher Brett Hayes said. “He left some up and they didn’t miss them. The first inning it felt like he threw about four pitches and four very aggressive hacks.”
Parker did not enter the game until the sixth, but went 2 for 2 and scored two runs.
He threw for more than 2,500 yards and 20 touchdowns as a Clemson freshman in 2009 and then was drafted by the Rockies.
“We know about the power,” Weiss said. “He’s an interesting guy. He’s an impact right-handed bat. There are not a lot of those guys running around the league anymore. That’s his biggest strength. He can put a charge into a ball.”
Rockies: Left-hander Boone Logan (elbow bone chips removed in offseason) threw a 25-pitch bullpen and should be ready for the March 31 opener.
Royals: Infante (sore right shoulder) was the DH Sunday, but could play second base Monday. “That’s the hope,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. Infante has not played in the field since the Feb. 27 exhibition opener.
The Royals, who have 57 players in camp, could be paring their roster soon. “It’s looming,” Yost said. “It gets to a point now where innings start to become sparse. You’re focusing on your priority guys getting ABs.”
Danny Duffy, who is trying to fill the final vacancy in the Royals’ rotation, gave up Dickerson’s homer and two singles in three innings. He had an 11.25 ERA in his first two outings.
“I just left one slider up,” Duffy said. “I’m giving up a lot of Arizona home runs. It’s starting to get old. You leave a pitch up, especially in this park, you can’t do nothing about it. Other than one pitch, it felt like I did pretty well, a lot of plusses from today.”
BY ALAN ESKEW, Associated Press
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