DENVER — After a very long night at Denver Health, Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger addressed the media on the condition of Rockies pitcher Juan Nicasio and seemed optimistic and upbeat about the 24-year-old’s prospects at getting back on a mound in the future.
Nicasio went into surgery around midnight on Saturday to repair a fracture in the C-1 vertebrae in his neck and had two screws placed in the vertebrae to stabilize it and fuse the bone back together. He also had a small plate inserted in the back of his neck to help stabilize the area. Nicasio was alert and talking throughout his entire transport from the mound at Coors Field to the hospital and knew exactly what had happened to him.
When he came out of surgery around 4 a.m. this morning, Nicasio — while on pain medication and with his neck restrained in a collar — was able to move his arms and legs.
Nicasio remembered “every detail” of the night before when Ian Desmond’s line drive struck him in the right temple, including the pitch he threw to Desmond. Still, it was a scary scene when Dugger raced out to the mound to see the rookie.
“It doesn’t get much scarier than this, for me,” Dugger said.
The good news, though, is that while Nicasio will remain in the hospital until at least early next week and is having regular CT scans ever few hours currently to ensure the surgery is having the desired affect and to monitor some internal bleeding in his face, the best-case scenario is that he will be throwing in spring training in February of 2012.
There was no damage to his spinal cord but the fracture was one Dugger said there was little, if any, precedent for in baseball. Typically, an injury of this kind occurs in a head-on car crash or when someone dives into a pool or lake and hits their head on a rock — leading Dugger to believe that the neck fracture occurred when Nicasio fell to the mound after being hit, but he could not be sure.
While the initial reports on Nicasio are good, Dugger cautioned that the team will know more about his prospects in baseball as time goes on, specifically noting the six-week mark of therapy when they are working on range of motion. It is something of an unprecedented injury for Dugger so he tried to temper expectations on Nicasio’s future.