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.

Chi Chi Gonzalez to undergo Tommy John surgery

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Rangers’ right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez is slated for Tommy John surgery, according to a report by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Gonzalez was placed on the 60-day disabled list back in early April with a partial UCL tear and was working towards a throwing program before getting sidelined with more elbow pain. He’s expected to miss the entirety of the 2018 season while recovering from the surgery.

This is the second straight season that has been derailed for Gonzalez due to injury. The 25-year-old starter pitched just 10 1/3 innings in 2016 after recovering from a torn UCL, and was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock to finish out the year after compiling an 8.71 ERA, 7.8 BB/9 and 6.1 SO/9 in three starts with the club. He showed more promise in Triple-A with a 4.70 ERA, 2.9 BB/9 and 5.9 SO/9 through 24 starts and 138 innings.

It’s a tough blow for the Rangers, who have seen Gonzalez healthy in just one major league season to date. General manager Jon Daniels told reporters that a recent MRI showed signs of weakening in the ligament, which disrupted the team’s plans to have the right-hander stick to a six- to eight-week recovery timetable after getting a platelet-rich plasma injection (via Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). The surgery is expected to take place next week and will put Gonzalez’s earliest return date sometime in September 2018.

Blue Jays place Aaron Sanchez on 10-day disabled list with blister issue

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The Blue Jays placed right-hander Aaron Sanchez on the 10-day disabled list with a blister on his right middle finger, the club announced Saturday. This marks the fourth disabled list stint for Sanchez this season after blister issues cropped up again during his start against the Red Sox on Wednesday. Per MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm, there is still no estimated timetable for his return to the mound.

Sanchez, 25, has made just eight starts for the Blue Jays in 2017. Between multiple trips to the DL, he’s racked up a 4.25 ERA, 5.0 BB/9 and 6.0 SO/9 through 36 innings and currently carries a 1-3 record. He started to look stable after delivering his first quality start last week, but lasted only four innings against Boston on Wednesday night and issued six hits, five runs and two strikeouts in another losing effort.

In a corresponding move, the Blue Jays activated right-hander Joe Smith from the 10-day disabled list (right shoulder inflammation) and recalled fellow righty Chris Smith from Triple-A Buffalo. Left-handed reliever Jeff Beliveau, who suffered in an eight-run inning during Friday’s 13-3 loss to the Indians, was designated for assignment.