If you’ve been following Pirates’ Spring Training at all this year, you know that Juan Nicasio has put on quite a show. He hasn’t given up a run all spring and has far exceeded expectations. That effort was rewarded with the fifth rotation spot yesterday, relegating Ryan Vogelsong (who was signed in the offseason, presumably, as a back of the rotation starter) to the bullpen. I’ll be curious to see how they use Vogelsong out of the bullpen, and even more curious to see what happens when Jared Hughes returns from what will likely be a stint on the DL to begin the season. Speaking of Jared Hughes, Nicasio might now rival him for the title of most ridiculous faces made while pitching (see above).
I’ve been on the fence about the Nicasio thing all spring; I don’t totally buy his numbers and there’s a reason he was moved to the bullpen a season and a half ago. By simplifying his pitch repertoire and allowing him to throw at a higher velocity, he became an effective reliever. Transitioning back to a starter role removes some of those advantages of being a reliever, and it’s going to require more than 15 innings of Spring Training lineups to convince me that Nicasio is ready for this. That being said, if he can continue to pitch effectively enough to be a consistent back of the rotation starter, I’ll feel a hell of a lot better about the rotation than I did about a month ago. Also, as Timothy pointed out in the comments on my previous article about Locke, you might as well give the mystery box a shot instead of 12 starts from Vogelsong.
Regardless of how this goes, the rotation is set now and Opening Day is almost upon us. Get excited.