St. Louis Cardinals: Jordan Hicks ramping up for return to closer role
In what has amounted to a disappointing start for the St. Louis Cardinals, there have been some positives. Nolan Arenado is starting to get comfortable. Alex Reyes looks like a dominant option in the ninth inning. Tommy Edman has seemed more than capable of replacing Kolten Wong at second base.
But the return of Jordan Hicks has been a massive development for the Cardinals. He has allowed only one run in seven innings (six appearances) while striking out seven. He needs to cut down on walks, but the team is encouraged by how his velocity has picked up where he left off in 2019. However, his workload is still being ramped up, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, though he does not appear far off from being a full go.
Hicks has primarily relied on his sinking fastball, cutter and slider, but he threw his changeup multiple times for the first time this season against the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday, Goold said. It’s an encouraging sign for Hicks, who teammate Andrew Miller recently said had “one of the best fastballs in the history of the game.”
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Perhaps that is a bit of hyperbole, considering that Hicks has not pitched in a game since 2019. But his fastball consistently tops 100 mph and has insane movement and has proved incredibly difficult for hitters to make contact with since he entered the league.
Having Hicks back and pairing him with Reyes in high-leverage situations has been beneficial for the Cardinals, especially as the rotation has continually failed to eat innings. The key for both will be to stay healthy. It’s something that has plagued both promising right-handers throughout their career.
But the early signs, especially from Hicks, have been encouraging. Given that he hasn’t been fully ramped up yet, the Cardinals could not have asked for more.