Cardinals closer Jordan Hicks has suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, the team announced. Hicks may need to undergo Tommy John surgery as a result, though the club noted it’s still determining the next course of action.
Should Hicks have to go under the knife, he’d miss the rest of this year and likely the majority of next season. Hicks’ loss would be a devastating shot to St. Louis’ bullpen, which has seen the 22-year-old turn into one of the game’s most imposing relievers since he debuted in 2018. Hicks didn’t log impressive strikeout and rates as a rookie last season, when he put up 8.11 K/9 and 5.21 BB/9 in 77 2/3 innings, but still recorded a 3.59 ERA/3.74 FIP with a 60.7 percent groundball rate. He also saved six of seven chances and amassed 24 holds, thanks in part to devastating velocity.
Hicks was the only pitcher in the majors last season to average upward of 100 mph on his four-seam fastball and sinker last season. He has clocked in just below 101 mph on his four-seamer and at 101.1 mph on his sinker this year, and enjoyed even better results before suffering his injury. Hicks made good on 14 of 15 save chances for the Cardinals this season and notched a 3.14 ERA/3.18 FIP with 9.73 K/9, 3.45 BB/9 and a fantastic 67.2 percent grounder rate in 28 2/3 innings.
Losing Hicks is all the more troublesome for the Cardinals given their place in the National League playoff race. The 40-37 Redbirds haven’t been great this season, but they’re still just two games behind the NL Central-leading Cubs and tied with the Rockies for the NL’s second wild-card spot.
Fortunately for the team, it does have at least a few other reliable late-game relievers. John Gant, Giovanny Gallegos and John Brebbia have joined Hicks in turning in good to excellent results, while Andrew Miller has been better of late after a rough start. The Cardinals also have former starter Carlos Martinez, who has been effective in 15 relief innings since making his season debut in May. Still, in the wake of the awful news on Hicks, St. Louis’ relief corps may well end up as an area of focus for the club’s front office as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.