A lot has happened from August 5th, 2011 to today, as pitchers and catchers workout and baseball clubs are gearing up for another summer season.
It was during the regular season last year when Juan Nicasio, who at the time was playing in AA minor league ball in Tulsa, was called up to the Rockies to be a starting pitcher due to injuries with Ubaldo Jimenez and Jorge De La Rosa. Nicasio made his first start on National TV against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 28th, pitching seven innings and allowing only one run in a 15-4 blowout win.
After a string of strong starts, including his most impressive start against the Kansas City Royals on July 1st where he threw eight shutout innings in a 9-0 win, Nicasio suddenly became a rookie sensation and regular starter for the Rockies and a piece the organization felt would be crucial in the rebuilding process after the Rockies traded All-star Ubaldo Jimenez.
Nicasio started a game on August 5th against the Washington Nationals, which would soon became more than just a game for Nicasio.
Early in the second inning, the Rockies were down 2-0 and Nicasio was pitching against Nationals’ shortstop Ian Desmond. On an 0-1 count, Nicasio threw a hard fastball at 93 mph. Desmond created contact, and the ball flew hard off the bat in the direction of Nicasio.
Nicasio threw his glove up to his face after the hit, but his reaction was not quick enough. Nicasio was drilled by a line drive in his head, and Nicasio collapsed on the mound immediately.
Video of Juan Nicasio’s injury on August 5th vs. Washington. Warning: This video is one of an injury. Parential discretion is advised
A packed house at Coors Field was silent. Trainers from both teams immediately headed to the mound to check on Nicasio. Cameras caught Nicasio laying on the mound, breathing and in obvious pain.
Good news was that Nicasio was seen moving his arms some and talking, but doctors and trainers treated Nicasio with extreme caution as he was put in a neck cast and strapped to a board to be carted off the field.
When doctors took him to a Denver hospital, a battery of tests were done to determine what happened to Nicasio. What doctors found in x-rays was that Nicasio, who is 24, had fractured his C-1 vertebra in his neck.
After taken to a local Denver hospital, doctors determined Juan Nicasio had suffered a much more serious injury than they thought
After determining the injury, doctors had to do surgery.Doctors inserted two pins into the cracked C-1 vertebra to help it heal in one piece. A small metal plate was attached to the back of his neck to provide additional stability.
The team and trainers were concerned with Nicasio’s injury and whether he would be able to walk again, let alone pitch another big league inning.
The injury is so rare in baseball that Colorado Rockies head trainer Keith Dugger confesed he had never seen anything like it before. In fact, many baseball officials said it was the first type of injury they had ever heard of in baseball.
Following surgery, Nicasio was resting comfortable and eating in the hospital. And only 12 days after fracturing his neck, Nicasio was in front of the media for the first time since the injury at a press conference.
“I’m lucky. The ball hit me right there,” he said pointing to his right temple. “A lot of people who have that injury don’t live.”
12 days after surgery to repair a fractured neck, Juan Nicasio made his first public appearance, thanking everyone involved with the recovery process
Alongside Nicasio at the press conference was head trainer Keith Dugger, who talked about that injury on August 5th.
“The very first thing he said was, ‘My neck,’ ” Keith Dugger said. “And he knew he got hit in the face right away, but he said right away my neck hurts.”
At the time of the press conference, it was still unsure whether Nicasio would pitch again for the Rockies. Confidence was high for both Dugger and Nicasio who made bold predictions for the upcoming season.
“He’ll report early to spring training. That’s the initial outline right now,” Dugger said.
When reporters asked if Nicasio would pitch again, Nicasio told reporters, “I want to pitch again” with a smile on his face.
Fast forward to February 21st, 2012. The Colorado Rockies are preparing for the upcoming 2012 season in Scottsdale, Arizona. Pitchers and catchers have reported to start throwing and getting ready for the season.
One of the pitcher throwing bullpen sessions was, in fact, Juan Nicasio.
Colorado Rockies Manager Jim Tracy called it nothing short of a “miracle” that Nicasio was throwing again just six months after his injury.
After beating the odds, Juan Nicasio is now competing for a starting rotation spot for the Rockies this upcoming year
“It just continues to be amazing,” Tracy said. “But it says a whole lot about the individual. You try to come up with a word to describe what has been going on, because there’s a lot of people involved here — our trainers, his doctors.”
As for the 2012 season, the Rockies are looking to rebuild a starting pitcher rotation, with Jorge De La Rosa being out until the All-star break after successful Tommy John Surgery last season.
Perhaps another big step on the way for Juan Nicasio, who beat the odds with his injury and will be on the mound this year.