GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Juan Nicasio held the Chicago White Sox hitless for five innings and Jordan Pacheco homered, helping the Colorado Rockies to a 4-1 victory on Tuesday.
Nicasio struck out six of the first eight batters and eight overall. He was removed after 82 pitches and walking just one — that runner was erased on a double play. The only other Chicago player to reach base was Adam Eaton, who struck out but made it to first on a wild pitch.
"I had good command of my fastball, down and in, and my slider was a lot better today," Nicasio said. "I'm ready for the season. I finished strong."
That alone is a big difference, Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.
"He's healthy for the first time in a while," Weiss said. "He wants to show who he really is."
The only thing slowing Nicasio on Tuesday was a torn fingernail on the middle finger of his pitching hand. Neither Weiss nor Nicasio expected that to be a problem for his next appearance.
White Sox ace Chris Sale, in his final start before opening day on Monday, gave up six hits and struck out three in 3 2-3 innings. Colorado's Drew Stubbs led off the game with a double and scored on DJ LeMahieu's single. After a wild pitch, Michael Cuddyer singled to drive in LeMahieu.
Rockies: Nicasio posted his third scoreless outing of the spring. Weiss said his use of all his pitches is making a big difference — particularly the split-finger fastball.
"With each outing he's gained more confidence with it," Weiss said. "He's throwing it more to put hitters away. His slider is a much better pitch than it was this time last year."
Despite the fingernail tear, Nicasio will likely get one more tuneup, in a minor league game on Sunday.
White Sox: Sale finished the Cactus League season with a 4.58 ERA, and 16 strikeouts in 17 2-3 innings. He walked three in the spring — none on Tuesday.
Before the game, White Sox manager Robin Ventura confirmed that Sale would be joined in the rotation by Felipe Paulino, Jose Quintana, Erik Johnson and John Danks, though "not necessarily in that order," Ventura said.
He added that he would likely break up the lefties, though Danks — who starts Wednesday in Glendale against Cincinnati — is in position to follow Sale. Quintana, the third lefty, has been pitching in between right-hander Paulino and Johnson during the spring.
Nate Jones, who is competing for the Chicago closer job along with Matt Lindstrom and Maikel Cleto, gave up two runs in the fifth inning, including Pacheco's home run. Lindstrom and Cleto each pitched one scoreless inning.
Cleto, claimed on waivers from Kansas City last month, has been a surprise late entry in the closer race by giving up just one run in 9 2-3 spring innings.
OPPORTUNITY AT SECOND
LeMahieu had an RBI single in the first and a triple in the third, both off Sale — and continued to impress Weiss. The 25-year-old second baseman hit .280 last season in 109 games. He stole 18 bases.
"DJ handled his opportunity well last year," Weiss said.
The longtime major league shortstop said he liked LeMahieu's overall approach.
"He's got such a great feel for the game," Weiss said. "His instincts, his ability to make adjustments, that's what gives me confidence. He has the ability to pick a spot to run (on steal attempts) and have multiple variables in his favor when he does run."
White Sox: Second baseman Gordon Beckham said his strained oblique is improving and he's hopeful of playing in Monday's season opener. But Beckham, who has missed 10 days of spring training games, says it won't be a long road back if he has to miss it.
"It would be one of those things the first day I could come off, I'd probably come off," Beckham said of the possibility of going on the disabled list. "I wish you could play every game like (opening day), but that's just one game out of 162."