Rockies Expect Nicasio To Provide Depth





DENVER—After a successful season at high Class A Modesto with a particularly strong finish, righthander Juan Nicasio is expected to begin 2011 at Double-A Tulsa. During the season, the Rockies expect Nicasio, 24, to be someone who can provide depth for the major league club.

"Maybe he's just getting to the beginning of that," assistant general manager Bill Geivett said, "but I think he's going to emerge into that type of guy that can go on a run and put himself in (that) position."

Nicasio did not play winter ball in his native Dominican Republic after his innings spiked last year. From 119 innings (including the playoffs) at low Class A Asheville in 2009, Nicasio's total rose to 183 innings for high Class A Modesto, including a California League-leading 177 during the regular season. Nicasio went 12-10, 3.91 with 31 walks and a league-leading 171 strikeouts.

He finished the season with the sort of surge that might have earned him a promotion to Tulsa had it occurred earlier. Regardless, in his final six starts, Nicasio went 4-1, 2.30 with four walks, 43 strikeouts and 36 hits allowed in 43 innings.

Nicasio has always thrown a lot of strikes—too many of them hittable. Modesto pitching coach Darryl Scott said Nicasio learned how to pitch inside instead of always for strikes.

To break up the tedium of throwing bullpen sessions in their Dominican instructional league program last fall, the Rockies let Nicasio pitch in a game. He was 94-99 mph and down with his fastball. At Modesto, Nicasio sat at 93-94 mph and topped out at 96 mph. He made strides with his curve and slider and his changeup continues to develop.

"He's a big guy with a tremendous amount of strength and a great worker," Geivett said. "He's a guy we look to. He's a guy that's going to be pitching for us in the big leagues at some point."

ROCKY ROADS

• Righthander Samuel Deduno, 27, was claimed off waivers by the Padres. He was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for righthander Clay Mortensen, who was acquired from the A's for righthander Ethan Hollingsworth.

• The Rockies will hold their annual invitation-only tryout camp March 4, the day minor league pitchers and catchers report to spring training.