SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The comeback of Rockies right-hander Juan Nicasio sounds better with each update.
But the best part of his performance during an intrasquad game on Sunday was not his two scoreless innings, his electric slider, his effective changeup, or even a fastball that sat between 93 and 95 mph and touched 97.
What's most pleasing to manager Jim Tracy is Nicasio is no longer merely someone making a tremendous comeback from the events of last Aug. 5, when he suffered a fractured C-1 vertebrae after taking a line drive off his temple during a game against the Nationals.
According to Tracy, the comeback is complete. Now, Nicasio is just a competitor for the Opening Day starting rotation.
"When your head trainer [Keith Dugger] says to you that there is no more discussion about Juan Nicasio, as far as medical updates, it's Juan Nicasio, period," Tracy said.
Nicasio, 25, eliminated the concern by showing no fear.
"One of the things you're looking for is his reaction as he goes to throw the pitch," Tracy said. "Is he going to finish the pitch, or is he going to start fielding his position too soon to protect himself -- and as a result, you see some recoil? Actually, it was a better Juan Nicasio than the kid that came to us from [Double-A] Tulsa, right now -- more mature, more convinced that he belongs at the Major League level."
Nicasio said he no longer thinks about balls whizzing by him. The second hit against him, Hector Gomez's single, was up the middle. It wasn't that close to Nicasio, but someone worried about being hit would have flinched, anyhow. Nicasio didn't react.
The only time he thinks about it is when asked.
"I'm not scared," Nicasio said. "I'm working hard. It's my dream, pitching again. I don't know if I'll make the rotation, but I'm working hard."