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Rockies-Astros Preview

AP - Sports

The last time Juan Nicasio took the mound in a regular-season game for the Colorado Rockies, he left unsure if he'd ever pitch again.

Eight months later, his comeback from a frightening experience will be complete.

Nicasio makes his first start since being hit in the head with a line drive eight months ago when he faces the Houston Astros in a the finale of a three-game set Sunday at Minute Maid Park.

On Aug. 5, Washington's Ian Desmond hit a ball right back at Nicasio that fractured his skull and broke the C-1 vertebrae in his neck. He was taken off on a cart, and the then-rookie wouldn't pitch again for the rest of the season.

It wasn't clear if Nicasio would make a full recovery, and the 2012 season was in doubt. But after rehabilitation and some hard work, the right-hander made it back in time for spring training and won his spot in the rotation.

"Sometimes when I'm in my hotel (during the spring) I'd think, 'Oh, my, it's unbelievable. Eight months ago, I broke my neck. Now I'm back,'" Nicasio told the team's official website. "It's crazy."

Manager Jim Tracy said Nicasio isn't focused on the past, but rather being successful in 2012.

"Juan Nicasio is way past what took place last year," Tracy said. "Juan Nicasio's mind is not only on pitching for us, but pitching successfully."

Nicasio went 4-4 with a 4.14 ERA in 13 starts before his season ended, and he'll look to get the Rockies back on track in their season-opening series.

Houston beat Colorado 7-3 on Saturday as Jordan Schafer hit a leadoff homer off 49-year-old Jamie Moyer and J.D. Martinez homered and drove in three runs.

Troy Tulowitzki tripled and drove in his third run of the series for the Rockies (1-1).

''It's always good to get a lead early and put the pitcher under pressure,'' Martinez said. ''We did a good job of that today. A guy like (Moyer) is tough and frustrating.''

Lucas Harrell pitched seven shutout innings of three-hit ball to earn the victory for the Astros (1-1), who bounced back from a 5-3 loss in Friday's opener.

After Houston committed four errors in the defeat, manager Brad Mills called each player charged with a miscue into his office to go over the plays.

The Astros responded by not making a mistake Saturday, while Colorado committed three errors of its own.

"(Maybe it was) young guys and opening day jitters," Mills told the team's official website. "It was really a shock. The guys had played so well and we had the fewest errors in spring training, and what's going to be one of our strengths is our defense. To see those things happen (Friday) was kind of shocking."

Bud Norris will take the mound for Houston after going 6-11 with a 3.77 ERA in 31 starts in 2011. He allowed five runs - four earned - and six hits in five innings but didn't earn a decision in an 8-6 loss to Colorado on Aug. 23 in his only career start against the Rockies.

Colorado had won six of the previous eight meetings prior to Saturday's loss.

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