Juan Nicasio impresses in first start since broken neck

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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.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.