Cardinals closer Jordan Hicks threw a pair of 20-pitch sets in a bullpen session at his home in Houston on Tuesday, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak tells Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It’s the latest positive step in the rehab process for the flamethrowing Hicks, who underwent Tommy John surgery late last June.
The Cards aren’t putting a firm deadline on Hicks’ readiness to pitch in a big league game, but Mozeliak spoke in broad terms when he expressed “optimism that if we do have a season, he’ll have some way of being a key member of it.”
Under normal circumstances, the Cards would’ve been without Hicks for at least half the season, given the June 26 date of last year’s surgery. Now, with the season beginning no earlier than July 1 — and quite possibly later, depending on the input of government officials and health experts — Hicks could be in the ’pen for the majority of the shortened season. The right-hander is a Type 1 diabetic but recently expressed to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic that his condition wouldn’t impact his willingness to play in 2020 amid coronavirus concerns.
Hicks, 23, is the hardest-throwing pitcher in baseball, averaging an outrageous 101.5 mph on a sinker that helped him post a gaudy 67.2 percent ground-ball rate in 2019. The right-hander quickly ascended to the role of closer in St. Louis and had collected 14 saves while pitching to a 3.14 ERA, 9.7 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 28 2/3 innings last year. Hicks made notable improvements in his ability to locate that blistering sinker last year, dropping his walk rate from a 5.2 BB/9 and 13.3 percent overall mark in 2018 to that 3.5 BB/9 and a 10 percent overall mark in 2019. His first-pitch strike rate jumped from 58.2 percent to 60.9 percent as well.
Hicks will be eligible for salary arbitration for the first time this winter and currently carries a 3.47 ERA, 20 saves and a 101-to-56 K/BB ratio in 106 1/3 career innings. He’s under club control through the 2023 season.