The regular readers among you know that I'm not particularly interested in Spring Training statistics, but when a player is in a situation in which he needs to prove himself, they can be worth noting. And when a pitcher who looked like a candidate for the Ray Searage treatment suddenly starts pitching brilliantly, they're especially worth noting.
Or maybe not. Who knows. Maybe March will turn to April and none of what I'm about to write will matter. But Juan Nicasio pitched five innings against the Twins today and struck out eight batters, walked two and allowed no runs. In his last outing, on the 16th, he struck out 10 batters and walked none in four innings. And for the spring as a whole, he's struck out 24 batters, walked five, and allowed no home runs.
I haven't seen every pitch he's made this spring, but it looks like he's baffling righties, in particular, with 94-95 MPH fastballs, and especially with 85-MPH sliders away. He also now appears to be trying to work the fastball inside against lefties. We'll see how this works in the regular season -- Nicasio doesn't throw many changeups, which could leave him somewhat exposed against lefties, even with the more varied fastball location. And like my colleague Jeff Todd noted on the MLBTR Podcast last week, the team Nicasio struck out 10 times last week was the Orioles, who strike out all the time.
Neal Huntington said today that Nicasio is competing with Ryan Vogelsong and Jeff Locke for the last two spots in the rotation. I think we all assumed that was what was happening, but it's interesting to see him confirm it. Here's hoping Nicasio lands one, because he looks a lot more interesting to me than Vogelsong or Locke do.