The Cardinals will start the season with their former close friend Jordan Hicks as their No. 5 starter, MLB.com’s John Denton reports.Twitter link) Flamethrowing sinkerballer has appeared in 112 major league games but will start his first major league this year whenever he takes the mound.
Hicks has been told to move to camp and expand as a starter towards the end of last season, but it is no surprise that he will be tabbed for rotation work to start the season. Had it not been for the injuries of Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes, Hicks might have started the year again as a member of St. Louis Bullpen, but instead he seems to have beaten offseason additions Drew Verhagen and Aaron Brooks for the final starting job. Behind Adam Wainwright, Steven Matz, Dakota Hudson and Miles Mikolas.
It should be noted that acting as a starting pitcher for Hicks is not a completely foreign role. He played in 37 minor league games before making his major league debut, and 34 of them came out of rotation. The cards are still in the process of being hooked up as Denton Adds The Cards hope he will be able to complete two to three innings for the first time against the Royals next Tuesday.
Hicks’ move in the rotation comes after a two-year stretch where the right-hander has dropped just 10 big innings in the league innings. Wright, 25, underwent Tommy John surgery in June 2019, sidelining him for the remainder of that season and setting the stage for his return to the summer of the 2020 season. Of course, the 2020 season didn’t even begin until the end of July. Hicks, who felt a slight push in his rehabilitation and was considered a high-risk person due to type 1 diabetes, came out of that 2020 season citing health and safety concerns.
He returned to the mound at the start of the 2021 campaign but returned to the shelf just a month after the season due to pain in his right elbow, which had been surgically repaired. Hicks was initially stopped from throwing for six weeks, but he was unable to resume throwing until the end of August. At that point, the Cardinals chose a cautious approach to his rehabilitation, rather than rushing him back and throwing him in the middle of the post-season push. Hicks pitched a pair of games in the Arizona Fall League, and he was healthy enough this spring that the cards made him feel comfortable pushing him into a new role.
It remains to be seen whether the move to the starting role will be permanent, but it is easy to see why the Cardinals have become intrigued by the idea of Hicks’ larger workload. The right-handed one of the game’s most electric geniuses, blisters 100.6 miles per hour on a sinker that helped him post a 63% ground-ball rate in his career. Hicks doesn’t strike out the way some would expect for a pitcher with his speed (22.5% strikeout rate) and his 13.4% walk rate is somewhat worrying. Still, a ground-ball pitcher with this kind of speed and the Cardinals’ all-around infield defense behind him could take his game to a new level if he stays healthy and is able to work a significant slate in 2022 innings.