Nicasio shines as Rockies top Royals

SURPRISE, Ariz. — Juan Nicasio made it easy for Colorado manager Walt Weiss to make it official.

Nicasio, coming back from a broken neck in 2011 and an injured left knee last season, allowed one run on three hits in five innings as the Rockies beat the Kansas City Royals 7-2 on Tuesday.

“He’s in the rotation,” Weiss announced after Nicasio’s victory.

Nicasio gave up a home run to Mike Moustakas in the second inning, then pitched out of jams in the fourth and fifth innings when the Royals had two runners on and one out.

Nicasio was limited to 13 starts in 2011 when a line drive off his head Aug. 5 broke a vertebra in his neck. He made 11 starts last season before the knee problem ended his season in June.

“He’s a guy who hasn’t pitched a lot with a broken neck and the knee injury last year,” pitching coach Jim Wright said. “He hasn’t thrown a pitch in seven months until this spring. He’s made tremendous improvement over the last three or four starts. He’s still making incremental progress. Today was a big step for his confidence. I was pleased with his changeup and his slider. They’re in developmental stages.

“It’s all about confidence now. He’s comfortable on the mound. His fastball confidence is there. It’s getting everything else together.”

With the count full in the fifth inning and two runners on, Nicasio struck out Alex Gordon with a changeup.

Nicasio didn’t need the changeup to twice strike out Eric Hosmer.

Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie, who started last season 3-9 with a 6.35 ERA with Colorado before a July 20 trade to the Royals, took the loss. After retiring the first nine batters, Guthrie gave up three runs in the fifth and another in the sixth. He yielded four runs on eight hits and a walk, throwing 50 strikes in 75 pitches.

Yorvit Torrealba and D.J. LeMahieu delivered RBI singles in the three-run Rockies’ fifth inning. Corey Dickerson contributed two doubles, including one in the ninth off Royals closer Greg Holland to drive in a pair of runs.

Moustakas hit his third spring home run and a single, upping his average to .426.

“I’ve been working on my swing in the offseason, getting back to how I used to hit,” Moustakas said. “I’m trying to getting more comfortable in the box and I feel I’ve gotten to that point, so it’s kind of stay here and I keep going from where I’m at.”

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