Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nicasio Making a Case for Return Shot in Cards Bullpen

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nicasio Making a Case for Return Shot in Cards Bullpen

Article excerpt

Before Saturday's game, the second in a series of meaningless ones for the Cardinals, manager Mike Matheny pulled up a chair in the clubhouse beside Juan Nicasio, a reliever who has made himself increasingly meaningful for the club.

He told the righthander that if he wanted to "shut it down" for the year he had the coaching staff's support. With 75 appearances behind Nicasio this summer and free agency ahead this fall, the Cardinals would understand.

"If I can get a save opportunity," Nicasio said he responded, "I want the ball."

So he got it.

An early September acquisition, Nicasio has used his one and only month with the Cardinals to capitalize on an opportunity he would not have had elsewhere and show his aptitude for the ninth inning. Nicasio pitched a scoreless ninth Saturday to secure a 7-6 victory at Busch Stadium and improved to four-for-four as a Cardinal in save opportunities. He had only three saves in his previous 260 major-league appearances.

The opportunity to remain as the Cardinals' closer is enticing enough that Nicasio, 31, would welcome a chance to re-sign with the club, he affirmed Saturday. The Cardinals front office has spoken with Nicasio's agent and made overtures about a multi-year extension, though they did not expect to complete a deal by the end of this weekend. The Cardinals have exclusive negotiating rights with Nicasio, who made $3.65 million this season, until the end of the World Series.

Both sides have expressed interest in a deal.

"I tell him, 'Try to make a good deal,'" Nicasio said of a conversation with his agent. "I want to stay here."

Earlier Saturday, shortly after talking to Matheny, Nicasio explained how since he shifted from starter for Colorado to reliever with the Dodgers and Pirates, he had bounced around from inning to inning.

"Sometimes seventh, sometimes eighth," Nicasio said.

He sought the ninth.

This season he's averaged the highest velocity of his career on the fastball (95.4 mph) and the slider (88.5 mph), and that's a classic combo for a closer. In 11 innings for the Cardinals, he's allowed 11 baserunners and struck out 11, the last coming for the final out of Saturday's game. …

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