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STL@COL: Nicasio impresses in his Major League debut

The Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez finally earned his first victory of the season on Wednesday and snapped the Rockies' three-game losing streak. On Friday against the Giants, manager Jim Tracy will hand the ball to a rookie in hopes of digging the Rockies out of their recent funk, which has included just four wins in their past 15 games. That young pitcher is right-hander Juan Nicasio, who was very sharp in his first outing.

The 24-year-old allowed one unearned run on six hits over seven innings in his debut on Saturday against St. Louis. However, a second start was not guaranteed upon his promotion from Double-A Tulsa, so getting the follow-up opportunity is valuable to say the least, according to Nicasio.

"I'm excited because it's my second start in the big leagues, but I'm going to just try to make my pitches. I'm not worried about what team I'm pitching against, just what I need to do," Nicasio said through interpreter and teammate Jhoulys Chacin.

However, Nicasio is not taking anything for granted. He understands that his first start has not earned him anything except the opportunity he will receive on Friday.

"I'm going to try to make my pitch down in the zone," he said. "I always try to do that, throw down in the zone. Last start I did that, and I got good results. So I'm going to keep doing that."

Nicasio's Minor League performance could categorize him as a power pitcher, considering he struck out 63 batters in nine starts. That changed in his debut when he fanned only two. Nevertheless, the right-hander believes more punchouts will pile up as he settles into the league.

"The strikeouts will come," Nicasio said. "When you don't think about striking out people, that's when you strike out more people. When I have a chance, I'll try, but I'll do the same thing as last time -- try to get people out with my fastball down in the zone. Then I'll see how the game goes."

While Nicasio made it look easy in his first start, the Giants will open their 10-game homestand by turning to Matt Cain. The right-hander is looking to regain his rhythm after surrendering an increasing amount of runs in each of his last four starts. In that span, Cain (3-4, 3.88 ERA) is 1-2 and has allowed 14 earned runs in 27 innings, including a five-run, 11-hit barrage against the Brewers on Sunday.

However, facing the Rockies could be the fix Cain needs. He has squared off against the Rockies more often than any team in his career (24 starts) and owns a 3.25 ERA with 138 strikeouts in 152 1/3 innings.

Rockies: Hot hands in the bullpen
One hot pitcher in the bullpen is a great asset, but Tracy won't argue with two. Matt Reynolds has not allowed a run in his last 13 appearances (seven innings), while Matt Belisle has tossed 7 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings over his last seven appearances since May 16. The left-handed Reynolds has been especially strong against right-handers, allowing just one hit in 20 at-bats this season, compared with a 7-for-32 mark against left-handers. The pair has been a vital boost to a Rockies bullpen that ranks 12th in the National League with a 4.05 combined ERA.

Giants: Sandoval set to start rehab assignment
Third baseman Pablo Sandoval will begin his injury rehab assignment Friday with high-Class A San Jose.

Manager Bruce Bochy said the tentative plan is to give Sandoval 20 to 30 at-bats before re-evaluating him. He's expected to play six innings Friday, play Saturday and then join Triple-A Fresno on Sunday for what could be his final activity before returning to the Giants.

Sandoval has been sidelined since April 30 with a fractured hamate bone in his right hand.

Worth noting
• Reynolds is one of three relievers in all of baseball that has yet to allow an inherited runner to score.

• Despite solid career numbers against the Rockies, Cain is 0-1 with a 6.94 ERA in two starts against them this season.

• Saturday's contest has been changed to a 1:10 p.m. PT start.

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