Juan Nicasio throws to hitters five months after broken neck

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Rockies’ right-hander Juan Nicasio suffered a fractured C-1 vertebrae when he was hit by a comebacker last August, but he continues to show remarkable signs of progress.

According to Troy Renck of the Denver Post, Nicasio has begun throwing to live hitters in a controlled environment.

“He’s been throwing to hitters with an L screen (that provides protection),” said Rolando Fernandez, the Rockies’ director of Latin America operations. “He’s doing good.”

Renck writes that Nicasio has shown “outstanding velocity” this winter and has told friends and family that he will return to the big leagues. Barring any setbacks, the hope is that he’ll start throwing without a screen before spring training so that he can compete for a rotation spot. Pretty easy to root for this guy.

Nicasio, 25, posted a 4.14 ERA and a promising 58/18 K/BB ratio over 71 1/3 innings as a rookie last season.

Video: Jake Arrieta hits a 465-foot home run off of Zack Greinke

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Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.

The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.

Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.

Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.

Luis Valbuena to miss four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring

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Angels first baseman Luis Valbuena will miss the next four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times reports.

Valbuena, 31, signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Angels in January and was on track to get the lion’s share of the playing time at first base. While he’s out, however, C.J. Cron will handle first base on a regular basis. When Valbeuna returns, the two will likely form a platoon.

Last year with the Astros, Valbuena hit a solid .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances.