DENVER -- The Rockies need right-handed pitcher Juan Nicasio to take a step forward when he faces the Giants in Sunday afternoon's finale of the four-game set at Coors Field, and they hope veteran catcher Yorvit Torrealba can give him a push.
Torrealba, 34, has become the Rockies' troubleshooter when it comes to pitchers. Early in Spring Training, the Rockies thought Jorge De La Rosa was having issues with controlling his emotions, so they paired him with Torrealba for his first seven starts. De La Rosa generally pitched well, and the Rockies have let him throw to second-year regular catcher Wilin Rosario in his last two starts.
Nicasio (3-1, 5.13 ERA) has been plagued by short starts and difficulty putting away hitters. His struggles have made him a candidate for a demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs, either when Jeff Francis returns from his left groin strain or when veteran Roy Oswalt, who signed a Minor League deal May 3, has built up his arm with starts at Double-A Tulsa.
But Nicasio brings a power element the team's other pitchers don't. Torrealba said Nicasio's power can take him a long way once he learns how to use it.
"He can throw his fastball by a lot of hitters," Torrealba said. "The secondary pitches, he needs to keep working on them, but instead of trying to be too fine, he needs to throw the 95, 96 mph fastball by them.
"Wilin has done a good job with him, but that's what I see. When he's being too fine, next thing you know he's got a lot of pitches in four or five innings. If I can get him to concentrate more on power and just throw, then mix up with some secondary pitches, I think he's going to be fine."
In his last start, a road loss to the Cubs, Nicasio gave up five runs in the first two innings but nothing further and lasted six -- his longest start since his first start of the season, a win at Milwaukee. Nicasio understands he will have to show production.
"Yes, I have to do better now quick," said Nicasio, who has shown proper fastball location and improved secondary pitch action in bullpen sessions, but hasn't carried that into games. "I know what's going on; I'm fighting for my job. So I have to get better, quick."
Torrealba said, "When you don't play good or when you aren't pitching good, there will be a lot of people expecting us to either get sent down or get traded or something. But he's a talented pitcher. That's the reason he's here.
"But he's working hard to get out of the little slump that he has. Hopefully, we can see the Nicasio these guys saw last year. All I heard was good stuff about him."
Manager Walt Weiss said he is not sure if he will keep Torrealba paired with Nicasio beyond Sunday.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less