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Nicasio exits with knee strain, status uncertain

DEN View Full Game Coverage VER -- Rockies right-handed pitcher Juan Nicasio, seemingly a magnet for hard-hit balls to the mound, left Saturday afternoon's 6-2 loss to the Dodgers with a left knee strain after he avoided Elian Herrera's hard grounder in the second inning.

It's not certain Nicasio (2-3) -- who took the loss after giving up three runs, two earned, in 1 2/3 innings -- will make his next scheduled start. The Rockies will re-evaluate him Sunday.

"I don't have balance," Nicasio said. "I know I want to go out and pitch again. I'll try."

The hit by Herrera drove in two runs to give the Dodgers a 3-1 lead. Nicasio gave up four hits, struck out one and walked one. Nicasio, at times upset when close pitches didn't get favorable calls from plate umpire Chad Fairchild, threw 45 pitches. Josh Roenicke replaced him.

"I tried to catch the ball. ... The rotation of my knee made it sore a little bit," said Nicasio, who has a 5.28 ERA in 11 up-and-down starts.

Last Aug. 5, Nicasio's rookie season ended when the Nationals' Ian Desmond hit a line drive that struck Nicasio in the head. Nicasio suffered a broken C-1 vertebrae when he tumbled to the mound. Nicasio made a faster-than-expected comeback. But in his first Cactus League game this spring, a hard liner buzzed right past his head.

"On a line drive in the middle, you're not thinking anything," Nicasio said. "I'm not thinking about last year."

The Rockies could take their time in making a decision. Nicasio's next scheduled start is Friday against the Angels at home. However, with the Rockies off on Thursday and again the following Monday, June 11, they can push back his start, if necessary.

Still, Nicasio's early exit puts the Rockies bullpen in a potentially precarious position going into Sunday's finale of a three-game set against the Dodgers, as well as a three-game road series against the D-backs starting Monday night.

The Rockies moved Josh Outman from a lefty relief specialist role to the starting rotation for Friday night's 13-3 victory over the Dodgers. Outman has experience as a starter but he hadn't thrown more than one inning in a game this year and was limited to 3 1/3 innings as he builds his pitch count. Relievers Carlos Torres (sent down to Triple-A Colorado Springs on Saturday), Adam Ottavino, Matt Belisle and Esmil Rogers finished the game.

After Nicasio's five outs, Roenicke (2 1/3 innings) and lefty Matt Reynolds (two innings) matched their season single-game highs, and lefty Rex Brothers threw a season-best two innings in his return from a demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs. Rogers threw the ninth.

"You sit down at your desk and you start thinking about tomorrow," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "How will you handle it if it doesn't present itself in the way you want it to? We're hoping [Sunday starter] Alex White pitches the best game he's pitched since he put a Rockies uniform on. I personally feel he's getting closer to doing that."

Colorado Rockies, Juan Nicasio