Pirates notebook: Nicasio provides depth in rotation, bullpen
BRADENTON, Fla. — Juan Nicasio forged his skills as a starting pitcher over four seasons in the thin air at Coors Field. Last year, he worked out of the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen.
He would accept either role with the Pirates.
“I’m good with both,” Nicasio said. “I can switch quickly. I just want to try to help the team win. If I go to the bullpen, it’s my job to take care of my teammates.”
Nicasio, 29, joined the team on a $3 million deal in December. He’s being stretched out in spring training as insurance against an injury to one of the starters.
If everyone makes it through camp healthy, Nicasio will open the season in the bullpen.
On Sunday, Nicasio threw two strong innings in an 11-8 loss against a Houston Astros split squad. The right-hander gave up one hit — Carlos Correa’s infield single — and struck out two.
“I’m feeling good,” Nicasio said. “I tried to keep the ball down in the zone and get contact. I only threw a couple of changeups, but I threw a lot of sliders. It was really good today.”
With the Colorado Rockies from 2011 -14, Nicasio pitched in 88 games (69 starts) and went 21-22 with a 5.03 ERA. In 53 outings (one start) with the Dodgers, he had a 3.86 ERA.
“You can’t judge his starting performance by numbers alone,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “You need to look at the development, and we’ve talked to some people about that. He believes the experience can help him move forward as a starter, and he wants to look at that opportunity.”
Nicasio probably holds more value to the Pirates as a reliever.
With the Dodgers, Nicasio averaged 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings and stranded 74 percent of baserunners. His fastball averaged 95 mph.
Jaso in the field
John Jaso’s growing pains at first base continued.
In the second inning, A.J. Reed hit a comebacker to the mound. Nicasio snagged it and jogged toward first base, yelling at Jaso. Nicasio broke into a sprint and barely beat Reed to the bag.
Reed was out, so Jaso and Nicasio shared a laugh. Later, Nicasio said he wasn’t sure what transpired.
“The ball was hit to me, and I looked to (Jaso) and he was looking at second base,” Nicasio said. “I was screaming to him, and he looked at second base.”
Jaso at the plate
Jaso hit in the cleanup spot and went 1 for 2 with a walk. He has reached base in five of seven plate appearances.
“The guy is going to see pitches,” Hurdle said. “He could end up (batting fourth). I’m not settled on anything yet. (Starling) Marte was not in the lineup today, so he was a good option for us.”
Florimon stays hot
Pedro Florimon’s two-run triple in the sixth inning gave the Pirates a short-lived 7-6 lead. He is 4 for 9 overall and has five RBIs over the past two games.
Florimon played the final four innings in center field. He never has started a game in the outfield in the majors or minors.
“We’re moving him around to enhance his versatility,” Hurdle said. “He’s a gifted guy. He’s got range, he’s got speed, he’s got a glove that works and a strong arm.”
Around the horn
The Pirates will play a B game against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday morning in Sarasota. … Jeff Locke will make his second start Monday against the Philadelphia Phillies. Tony Watson, Trey Haley, Eric O’Flaherty, A.J. Schugel and Jorge Rondon also are slated to pitch for the Pirates.