When Juan Nicasio suffered a fractured C-1 vertebrae as a result of being struck by a line drive last August, his baseball career was suddenly secondary. However, after making remarkable progress in his rehabilitation over the course of the past few months, it now appears likely that he’ll open the season as a member of the Rockies’ starting rotation.
Nicasio made his first start since the neck injury earlier this afternoon against the Athletics. The 25-year-old right-hander allowed an unearned run on five hits over three innings while striking out two and walking none. Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post notes that he was consistently reaching 93-94 mph on his fastball, so he isn’t missing a beat with his velocity.
The results were nice and all, but it was also encouraging that Nicasio wasn’t fazed by facing live hitters again in a competitive environment. He got tested early on when infielder Eric Sogard, the second batter of the game, hit a line drive right through the box.
Nicasio showed a lot of promise last season prior to the injury, posting a 4.14 ERA and 58/18 K/BB ratio over 71 2/3 innings as a rookie. Let’s hope he can pick up from where he left off.
MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Orioles have interest in free agent right-hander Alex Cobb, who rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rays earlier this week. Cobb was most recently linked to the Cubs, who reportedly reached out to his agent during the GM Meetings and garnered mutual interest from the righty, but nothing appears to be set in stone yet.
Cobb, 30, completed his sixth season with the Rays in 2017. He went 12-10 in 29 starts and turned in a respectable 3.66 ERA, 6.4 SO/9 and career-best 2.2 BB/9 in 179 1/3 innings. Despite losing a couple of weeks to turf toe, he remained healthy for most of the year and showed no signs of the elbow issues that robbed him of the majority of his 2015-2016 campaigns.
It’s still fairly early for any deals to come to fruition, but Morosi notes that the Orioles seem to be focused on bulking up their rotation during the first few months of the offseason. It’ll take more than a healthy Alex Cobb to right that ship, however: Orioles’ starters earned a collective 5.70 ERA and 5.5 fWAR in 2017, good for worst and fourth-worst marks in the league, respectively. Behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy (and perhaps Gabriel Ynoa/Miguel Castro), they still need three viable starters to compete in 2018. Whether or not they can afford to spring for a single starter with Cobb’s price tag (four years, $48 million, per MLB Trade Rumors) remains to be seen.