- Associated Press - Friday, August 12, 2011

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy said pitcher Juan Nicasio was much improved and could be at Coors Field on Monday when the team returns from a seven-game trip.

Nicasio underwent neck surgery on Saturday to stabilize a fractured vertebra after being struck in the head by a line drive a day earlier.

Tracy met media Friday not long after a telephone conversation with the 24-year-old pitcher, who told the manager jokingly that he’d be ready to pitch in two weeks. Team medical staff has been optimistic Nicasio will be back on the mound next spring.

“That basically made my day, to hear him,” Tracy said. “It was neat, the couple minutes I was on. It was really, really neat to hear his voice.”

Tracy said Nicasio was in good spirits for the most part, eating well and sleeping regularly.

Two screws were inserted into the damaged C-1 vertebra during the surgery in Denver, and a small metal plate on the back of Nicasio’s neck stabilized the area.

The rookie right-hander was injured on a liner by Washington’s Ian Desmond. The ball smashed into the right side of Nicasio’s head and bounced back into foul territory, leaving him down on the mound for several minutes.

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