The clock is ticking for Juan Nicasio. Despite a 3-1 record, the Rockies right-hander hasn't performed up to snuff through the first six weeks of the season, unable to pitch longer than six innings in any of his eight outings so far while his ERA has ballooned to 5.13.
All the struggles have Nicasio's spot in the Colorado starting rotation hanging in jeopardy as Jeff Francis gets closer to returning from his left groin strain and veteran Roy Oswalt, who signed a Minor League deal May 3, builds up his arm at Double-A Tulsa.
With his opportunities dwindling, the 26-year-old will look to turn things around Sunday when he takes the mound against the Giants as the two clubs conclude their National League West series.
"When you don't play good or when you aren't pitching good, there will be a lot of people expecting us to either get sent down or get traded or something," said Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba. "But he's a talented pitcher. That's the reason he's here."
In his last outing, Nicasio surrendered five runs on eight hits over six innings against the Cubs, taking the loss even though the outing marked the first time he pitched more than five frames since April 3.
"I know what's going on," Nicasio said. "I'm fighting for my job. So I have to get better, quick."
Taking the mound for the Giants will be Barry Zito, who is also coming off a start in which he gave up five earned runs. In Toronto on Tuesday, the left-hander served up 12 hits over 5 2/3 innings of work as the Blue Jays tallied six runs off him in the first inning, with three of them unearned.
"Give Z credit. ... He did a great job of putting that inning behind him and pitching well," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after the game. "He didn't cave in; he kept going."
Giants: Machi called up, Pill send down
Returning to a 13-man pitching staff Saturday, the Giants recalled right-hander Jean Machi from Triple-A Fresno. First baseman Brett Pill was optioned to Fresno to clear a roster spot.
In a previous stint this year with the Giants, Machi, who will be used in the middle frames out of the bullpen, recorded a 1.74 ERA in nine appearances. He struck out 10 and walked three in 10 1/3 innings.
"It's fair to say we've gone to [the bullpen] a little bit earlier than we're accustomed to," Bochy said. "This will give us another arm and we'll see how it goes for a little while here with 13 pitchers. I can't tell you how long, but until we get more consistency, we'll be like this for a while."
Pill, 28, was 2-for-6 in in three games with the Giants, collecting a pair of doubles. In 32 games at Triple-A this season, Pill was hitting .341 with nine home runs and 47 RBIs.
Rockies: Cuddyer on track for DL activation
Michael Cuddyer was happy enough with his throwing and hitting in the batting cage that he believes he will be ready to return from his neck injury Friday, the day he is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list.
Cuddyer has a disk issue that appeared in 2004, flared in 2011 and recurred during the Rockies' last homestand. He had an epidural shot Tuesday and has improved his range of motion since.
"I'm on track for Friday," Cuddyer said. "I'm sure I'll do a rehab assignment, just to see how it feels. Today was the best I felt. It's definitely gotten better every day. Two days after I got the shot, it started getting better."
• The Rockies are 7-9 against left-handed starting pitchers this season.
• The Giants' 10-game winning streak against the Rockies ended Friday. It was San Francisco's longest win streak over any division opponent since divisional play began in 1969.
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.