Juan Nicasio often pitches his best as a stable pitcher, showing off in the bullpen like a racehorse. It's when he's not stable that Nicasio struggles. He finished last season on a seven-game run during which he averaged only 3 ⅔ inning as a starter.

Friday afternoon at Coors Field, Nicasio was let loose and was in stellar form, looking more like a No. 1 starter than a No. 5 in the Rockies' 12-2 rout of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Nicasio pitched seven innings, allowing just four hits and one run. He finished with six strikeouts and issued only one walk.

"I'm feeling like I'm fighting right now," said Nicasio, who less than two years ago suffered a broken neck during a game at Coors Field when he was hit by a line drive. "This is my home. I need to pitch well in my home, in Denver. It's important.
Nicasio became the first Colorado starting pitcher this season to get past the sixth inning. His six strikeouts were great, but the innings he devoured were important too. Veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins needed 36 pitches Wednesday to close out a win at Miami, and Colorado's bullpen needed a breather.

"Pretty much what the doctor ordered," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said of Nicasio's performance. "He got us deep in the game. It was a good day all around."

Nicasio could have gone deeper too. Weiss pulled his starter after only 87 pitches, 64 of which were strikes.

Nicasio worked through the winter on perfecting two new pitches — a hard slider and a split-finger fastball. He unveiled them Friday against the Diamondbacks.

"He mixed it up," said Rockies pitching coach Jim Wright. "The splitter is still in the development stages, but he got three outs with it. Three groundball outs. It's going to be a good pitch for him."

Wright, though, said Nicasio's best stuff is still a work in progress, showing up for now in bullpen sessions.