|Juan Nicasio delivers a pitch in his rookie campaign of 2011|
When Juan Nicasio went down after being drilled in the face by an Ian Desmond line drive back in August, everyone hoped for the best. They hoped for the best, but feared the worst. As word got back to the Rockies and their fans, it seemed as if the worst had happened.
The news of Nicasio's broken neck turned the attention from how quickly Nicasio could get back on the mound, to simply hoping that there was no permanent damage and that the young right-hander would be able to lead a normal life, completely regardless of the game of baseball.
Then, the most mind-baffling news started being reported by the doctors. Not only was Nicasio back up and walking, he was hoping to return to baseball.
If people who followed the situation were honest, they would say that Nicasio's desire to return to the mound was encouraging in that it would drive him to heal, but stepping back onto the field was probably not going to happen. If it did happen, it probably would take a long time to learn the craft again.
However, Nicasio has defied all of the odds. Not only is he pitching, he is someone the Rockies are so confident in that they are penciling him into the rotation.
Consider for a minute how amazing this story is. Take away Nicasio's injury. Take away the line drive that drove him to the ground and into a hospital. Put the usual circumstances around a 25-year old prospect who never pitched an inning above Double-A before being forced into the rotation due to injuries at the big league level.
A normal prospect who had just 13 big league games under his belt would be considered someone who was under the watchful eye of management. He would be talked about as someone who the team had expectations for, but that he might need a little more time in the minor leagues to hone his craft.
A normal prospect would be fighting for a spot in the rotation, but might have to serve some bullpen duty. Regardless, he would be thrilled just to be considered for the Opening Day roster.
Now throw in the fact that Nicasio not only had an injury that ended his rookie season, he had an injury that put him in intensive care and severely limited his ability to prepare for the 2012 campaign. Couple that with the mental side of the injury. Remember Billy Wagner? Wagner was hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of Devon White. It took him months to recover physically, but the mental side of the injury was another story. When Wagner threw his first pitch in a rehab outing in the minor leagues, he threw the fastball, then dove out of the way, anticipating being hit again.
The mental toughness that Nicasio is showing is absolutely incredible. In his first start in spring training, the biggest test came for the righty. The second batter he faced smacked a hard ground ball back up the middle. Nicasio fielded it and threw to first base to record the out.
The fact that Nicasio is fully recovered from his injury is a miracle. The fact that he is back on the baseball field, throwing pitches with confidence and good enough to be a sure-thing for the Major League rotation is surreal. Regardless of results, Nicasio should win the comeback player of the year award, simply for throwing a pitch at the big league level.
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