Nicasio has dealt with right knee issues all season and has been on the disabled list since August 3.
PHOENIX — The recurring pain in Juan Nicasio’s troublesome right knee wouldn’t allow him to consistently pitch at a level he wanted or expected. And it has now ended his 2018 season.
Mariners manager Scott Servais said before Sunday’s game that Nicasio will undergo surgery to “clean up” the knee in the coming days.
“You probably won’t see him in uniform again the rest of this year,” Servais said.
Nicasio has been on the disabled list since Aug. 3 with “right-knee inflammation.” It’s the second time this season he was placed on the disabled list due to the knee. He missed 10 games in mid-June with right-knee effusion. After having Mariners team doctors examine the knee, Nicasio flew to San Francisco last Monday to have the knee checked for a second opinion. General manager Jerry Dipoto said Nicasio’s procedure is scheduled for Tuesday.
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Regardless of his results this season, it’s a loss for the Mariners with roster expansion looming and the need for more depth in the bullpen. In 46 appearances, Nicasio was 1-6 with a 6.00 earned-run average. He did have 19 holds and a 10.90 strikeout-to-walk ratio having struck out 53 batters and walked just five in 42 innings.
“Juan is our most unlucky pitchers by far and one of the most unlucky in the big leagues based on batting average on balls in play,” Servais said. “Juan had a couple of really good stretches for us and he had some times where he struggled and gave up some big hits late in games. But I was really, really hoping to have him back. But he just felt that you have to have your legs under you to pitch and he didn’t feel comfortable there.”
The .402 batting average on balls in play definitely speaks to some bad luck. It’s more than 100 points over an expected level. Nicasio’s Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), a metric which measures run prevention independent of team defense and luck to approximate a pitcher’s ERA, was a respectable 2.99.
Nicasio blamed the knee for his command issues and inconsistent velocity this season. Because it was on his push leg from the rubber, the pain would affect how much he could drive with his legs. It varied from game to game. When the knee was pain-free, the life on his pitches was there. But when it ached, he couldn’t push off and threw with all arm. Back-to-back outings were a problem.
“I can’t keep pitching like this,” Nicasio said last week. “I’ve tried to fight it all year. But the knee just kept bothering me. I can’t pitch like that. I don’t have the power. My fastball goes from 96 one day to 92 the next. It doesn’t let me push to home plate. It hurts.”
The Mariners signed Nicasio to a 2-year, $17 million contract this past offseason as teams around the league went hard after middle relievers in free agency. He was coming off one of his best seasons as big-leaguer, posting a 5-5 record with six saves and a 2.61 ERA in 76 appearances — the most in baseball — spread out with three teams: Pittsburgh (65 games), Philadelphia (2 games) and St. Louis (9 games). He spent the bulk of the year with the Pirates, going 2-5 with a 2.85 ERA and two saves. He picked up a win and didn’t allow a run in his two appearance with the Phillies. After being traded to the Cardinals on Sept. 6, Nicasio was dominant, posting a 2-0, 1.64 with four saves.
Servais’ hair looked the same as always on Sunday morning. But that will change in the coming days. With Edwin Diaz notching his 50th save on Saturday night, Servais lost a friendly wager with his closer that will result in a new ‘do.
In May, Servais told Diaz that if he reached 50 saves, he’d get the same haircut as his closer, which features shaved in designs on the side of his head.
Diaz contacted his barber that he uses in Seattle and with the help of Robinson Cano and Jean Segura, they are flying the barber to San Diego to cut Servais’ hair in front of the whole team.
“The barber is en route is what I’ve been told,” Servais said. “They were quick to let me know that this morning. It could be Tuesday or the off day.”