SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jim Tracy went so far as to call it a "miracle." One way or another, the Rockies manager knows he witnessed something special Tuesday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.Tracy watched Colorado pitcher Juan Nicasio throw his first official bullpen session of Spring Training, just months after Nicasio was struck in the head by a line drive on Aug. 5 and fell, fracturing his C-1 vertebra. It was unclear when Nicasio would be able to walk again, let alone throw a baseball. "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." To call Nicasio's a speedy recovery would be a gross understatement. But the right-hander, who was 4-4 with a 4.14 ERA in his rookie season last year with the Rockies, has been approaching top-end velocity over the past few weeks in his pitching sessions. Tracy is certain that Nicasio has a clear goal in mind, and that it's an attainable one. "He expects to be a part of this rotation on Opening Day," Tracy said. "He expects to be a part of it."
Tracy's unique deal not surprising to players
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The uncommon nature of the Rockies' "handshake agreement" to offer manager Jim Tracy an indefinite extension may have struck some as odd. But not his players.The clubhouse culture that Tracy aims to promote in Denver -- which helped spur such a unique agreement with general manager Dan O'Dowd -- extends far enough into the clubhouse that such a deal seemed ordinary for the Rockies. "It's just a positive outlook of where they are, what's going on," said reliever Matt Belisle, who joined the Rockies in 2009, the same year Tracy took over as manager. "They didn't have to say anything to Jim. The point is they did say, 'We want you to be our man and lead us to our championships from now until a while.'" Tracy and O'Dowd announced the agreement -- which took place sometime this past week in Scottsdale -- on Monday after the first official workout at Salt River Fields. The 56-year-old skipper would have been in the final year of his 3-year, $4.4 million deal. Now, the door appears to be open for him to remain as long as he would like. Tracy said Monday the agreement helps keep him at ease and allows him to manage without having to second-guess his decisions. After a disappointing 2011 season -- the Rockies were a favorite to win the National League West, but finished in fourth place, 21 games behind the division-champion D-backs -- it also shows the faith O'Dowd has in Tracy. "With a lot of the guys not returning to the team this year, a lot of people could be on edge and uneasy," infielder Eric Young Jr. said. "But doing something like that makes it a lot easier and he can go into this year just focused on managing instead of worrying about an extension. "Last year was a rough one for us, but we're excited about next year and knowing how he's been preparing all offseason, it's well deserved."
Rockies enjoy stability in bullpen
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There's plenty of attention to be paid to the competition for spots in the Rockies' rotation this spring. That's fine with the members of the bullpen because, as far as they're concerned, they're primed and ready to go.Rockies manager Jim Tracy has much to decide when it comes to his roster, but he knows he can rely on relievers like Matt Belisle, Rex Brothers and Rafael Betancourt to hold down the back end of the bullpen. The three have a combined 18 seasons of Major League service, seven with Colorado. "I feel comfortable with anybody who is in our 'pen," Belisle said. "It's such a unique, good little group down there that has to sit together through those games. We all have the mentality of, 'Just give us the ball and we'll take care of any job you need from us for that day.' There's no ego, there's no selfishness, and that goes a very long way." There will be some shifting in the bullpen pieces, though, as Betancourt -- who has served primarily as a setup man -- moves into the closer role this season. He's filled that role previously, having recorded at least one save in each of his nine big league seasons, including last year when closer Huston Street was injured. But now, with Street gone, the job belongs to Betancourt. Brothers made 48 appearances in his rookie season with the Rockies last year, posting a 1-2 record with a 2.88 ERA. The southpaw struck out 59 hitters in 40 2/3 innings. "As a bullpen, that's your job, to get in there and finish off the game," Brothers said. "Anytime anyone is in there, we're all pulling for him. Every day brings a new challenge and whatever our roles may be, we're all pulling for each other."
Rox prospect suspended 50 games for PEDs
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies Minor Leaguer Joseph Torres, who has spent one season with the organization, has been suspended 50 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday.
The left-handed pitcher is currently on the Triple-A Colorado Springs roster after appearing in 51 games for Double-A Tulsa last year (3-1, 2.28 ERA). His suspension will be effective at the start of the season.
"The Colorado Rockies have long been committed to eliminating the use of performance-enhancing substances from the game of baseball," the club said in a statement. "We have fully supported the adoption and implementation of the Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Player's Association Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
"We have routinely educated all of our players about the dangers of performance-enhancing substances and strongly encourage all players to avoid their use. We strongly believe that baseball and all other sports must continue to directly address the issue of performance-enhancing substances. There is no place in baseball for such substances, and we have and will continue to do what we can to eliminate them from our game."
Torres, who was signed on Feb. 23, 2011, as a Minor League free agent, ranked second among the Drillers in appearances last season and second in strikeouts among Tulsa relievers. He was originally selected by the Angels in the first round (10th overall) of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft. He was not listed in the Rockies' 2012 Top 20 Prospect Watch.