DENVER -- Rockies right-handed pitcher Juan Nicasio will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery Monday to remove floating materials in his left knee.Nicasio, 25, has now lost consecutive seasons to surgery. He underwent an emergency procedure for a broken neck -- suffered when he was hit in the face by a batted ball -- in August. This time, a strained left knee occurred when he was trying to field a hard-hit ball on June 2 against the Dodgers. Nicasio, 2-3 with 5.28 ERA in 11 starts, had fluid drained from the knee twice, but when it filled with fluid immediately after the second procedure, the Rockies scheduled him for surgery. Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger said team medial director Thomas J. Noonan removed four pieces of chondral cartilage from Nicasio's knee, and followed up with a microfracture, in which they drilled holes in the knee to promote healing. The microfracture is the reason the surgery will cost Nicasio the season. The best-case scenario will be for Nicasio to throw during the Rockies' Dominican instructional program in preparation to pitch in winter ball, Dugger said, adding that the injury should not delay the start of Nicasio's 2013 season. Nicasio was promoted from Double-A Tulsa late in May 2011 and was 4-4 with a 4.14 ERA in 13 starts when he was struck in the head by a line drive from the Nationals' Ian Desmond on Aug. 5. Nicasio tumbled to the ground, and his broken neck apparently occurred when his face hit the dirt. Dugger and emergency personnel at Coors Field were credited with recognizing a broken neck and following proper procedure to keep the injury from becoming worse, or even fatal. Emergency surgery was needed to put together his C1 vertebrae. Against long odds, Nicasio was able to resume throwing in the Dominican instructional program, and by Spring Training, he was ready to compete for a spot in the Rockies' starting rotation, which he earned in what many around the Rockies called a miracle. Nicasio's knee injury is part of a nightmarish year for Rockies pitching. Jorge De La Rosa appeared to be making progress after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his left elbow last June, but after two setbacks, it's uncertain if he'll return. De La Rosa was expected to be the veteran leader of the staff. Righty Jhoulys Chacin struggled mightily (0-3, 7.30 ERA in five starts) before going to the disabled list with shoulder problems. The injury was later determined to be a nerve issue in the right side of his chest. He has not appeared in a game since May 1, but will throw his first simulated game Tuesday. The early part of the season, Opening Day starter Jeremy Guthrie missed three starts after suffering a shoulder injury in a bicycle accident, and he struggled mightily after returning.
Nelson hospitalized with irregular heartbeat
DENVER -- Rockies infielder Chris Nelson was admitted to a local hospital Monday with an irregular heartbeat, the club confirmed before its game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.Nelson, 26, has hit .256 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 58 games while playing second and third base. Nelson is expected to remain under observation at Sky Ridge Hospital overnight.
Hernandez familiar with trade rumors
DENVER -- Seeing his name linked to a rumored destination is a rite of summer for Rockies catcher Ramon Hernandez as the July 31 Trade Deadline approaches.Hernandez, 36, was linked to trade rumors the last three years while with the Reds. He signed a two-year, $6.4 million contract with the Rockies this past offseason, but with the club 34-54 going into Monday night's game against the Pirates, once again he has the appeal of being a veteran catcher that contending clubs covet. Hernandez's contract gives him no say-so over trades, but he said Monday he has already received the next-best thing -- open communication. Hernandez missed 42 games with a left hand strain, but before he returned, reports said the Mets were trying to trade for him. At first opportunity, Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd offered him a promise that he won't have to go to the rumor mill for his information. "He came to me," Hernandez said. "He told me if something is going on, I would be the first one he lets know, and I love that. When the GM comes up and says, 'You may hear a bunch of rumors, but if something's going to happen, I will let you know.' It relaxed me. "You can't let that affect you. I'm happy. I hope I stay here. It's business. Sometimes a team makes a move to get better in the future and you can help another team." Hernandez (.206, four homers, 16 RBIs) will share playing time with rookie Wilin Rosario, who is a work in progress defensively and in learning opposing hitters, but he leads Major League rookies with 15 homers and has 39 RBIs. Since Spring Training, Hernandez has offered advice and help. "He's doing way better than what he was when he first came to camp," Hernandez said. "He's settling down. He's relaxing. You have to be totally relaxed, no matter what's going on, but if you let the game catch up to you, everything's going to be fast and you'll get lost. No matter what happens, you have to keep your five senses and always be thinking, looking, figuring what you can do to get out of a mess. I'm here to help him." Manager Jim Tracy said, "For [Rosario] to catch a couple of days, then take a break to give Ramon the opportunities that we want to give him as we try to ramp him back up, that's a healthy thing."
EY2 finding groove coming off bench
DENVER -- Rockies utility man Eric Young Jr. has notched a hit in four of his past five pinch-hit opportunities, including a solo home run on July 8 against the Nationals.It's no surprise he says he's as dialed in as he has been this season.
"During the baseball season, you get into grooves the more repetitions you get," Young said. "I'm getting used to my role."Young is usually the first player manager Jim Tracy summons off the bench to hit for the pitcher. Knowing this, Young spends much of his time in the dugout studying the opposing starting pitcher. "I'm always [staying aware] of my situation, getting ready to hit," Young said. "I know how Tracy likes to manage a game, so I'll pay attention to the starter's pitch count, when he's coming into the lineup." Once he gets on base, Young has been a terror: He is 10-for-11 in stolen-base attempts, and 37-for-42 over the last two seasons. Recently, he's been getting on quite frequently -- hitting .300 since the beginning of June.
Pacheco gets a chance in three-hole
DENVER -- Three lockers down, Dexter Fowler heard the topic of conversation -- that Jordan Pacheco would be hitting third against the Pirates Monday -- and couldn't quite believe it."You're hitting third today?" Fowler shouted. "Come on!" Pacheco himself had a hard time explaining the reason for his move from the bottom of the lineup to the No. 3 hole. "I have no idea," he said. "I found out like two minutes ago and I'm a little surprised." The Rockies have struggled to fill out the middle of the order since Troy Tulowitzki suffered a groin injury in late May. Michael Cuddyer has predominantly filled Tulowitzki's cleanup spot -- while Carlos Gonzalez remains in the No. 3 hole -- though manager Jim Tracy has admitted it is sometimes asking too much of Cuddyer. Sunday against the Phillies, Tracy batted Ramon Hernandez fourth. He went 0-for-4. "Let's face it, in the absence of Tulowitzki, any number of things I've tried haven't worked out too well," Tracy said. "That's the reality of it." Pacheco lacks for typical three-hole power, which is why Fowler and others expressed surprise. But the third baseman leads National League rookies with a .306 average and is in the midst of an 11-game hitting streak. "He's a great bat-to-ball hitter," Tracy said. Tracy hopes Pacheco can extend innings and get Gonzalez, hitting fourth on Monday, more at-bats with RBI opportunities. A right quadriceps injury has nagged at Pacheco for over a month, but he used the All-Star break to rest at home in New Mexico. "Every indication I'm getting is he's doing better since then," Tracy said. Pacheco had hit third five times, all coming in a late callup last season. He went 3-for-21 (.143), with two RBIs. "Oh man, hitting third?" Pacheco said when told of his splits. "Wow. But it doesn't matter where I am in the lineup, I'll just try to do my job."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. Trey Scott is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.