DENVER -- In another encouraging step in his recovery from a fractured vertebra, Rockies right-handed pitcher Juan Nicasio had his neck brace removed on Tuesday.
Rockies manager Jim Tracy said head athletic trainer Keith Dugger was in attendance when medical personnel removed the brace, which Nicasio has worn since undergoing surgery for the frightening injury he suffered at Coors Field on Aug. 5, when a line drive off the bat of the Nationals' Ian Desmond struck the pitcher on the right side of his head.
Tracy said Nicasio was anxiously anticipating removal of the brace, which has restricted his neck movement over the past six weeks.
"It was beginning to look like, the last few days, that thing was getting very, very uncomfortable, as you can well imagine," Tracy said.
Nicasio, 25, has been a consistent and encouraging presence in the Rockies' clubhouse since he greeted his teammates just 10 days after the injury, and Tracy said he has been in awe of the determination the young pitcher has demonstrated.
"This guy is bound and determined, and completely committed, to being back [on] that mound -- sooner than later," Tracy said.
Still, Tracy stressed that, despite Nicasio's enthusiasm amid a surprisingly quick recovery thus far, caution will be exercised during his rehab.
"Obviously, there are some additional things moving forward that we will have to be very mindful of. That is, once he gets to the point where he's fairly actively involved, and we get to the point -- and I don't know when that is, probably off in the distance a ways -- when he goes to throw live [batting practice] and he's staring at a hitter, after what took place, the psychological effects of that, you have to mindful of all of that."
Tulo makes pinch-hitting appearance
DENVER -- After Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki participated in pregame workouts at full speed for the second consecutive day on Tuesday, he appeared as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of the Rockies' 2-1 loss to the Padres.
Tulowitzki, who was fanned by Padres starter Mat Latos in the at-bat, made his first appearance since Sept. 13, as he continues to recover from bursitis in his left hip. There is a possibility that Tulowitzki could start in the team's home finale against the Padres on Wednesday.
"It's possible," manager Jim Tracy said. "I won't rule it out, but I won't rule it in just yet, either."
Tracy said that once Tulowitzki returns to regular action in the field, he is likely to be used sparingly over the final week of the season.
"As we move forward here, we will balance the scales about -- once he is available -- how much he will do," Tracy said. "He could start a game, play part of a game, and then come out. ... And you don't want to feel like you end up in a situation where, if a key component like that were to get hurt, that fractures you going into 2012. You have to be mindful of that."
Nick Kosmider is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.