ST. LOUIS — Cardinals’ pitcher Jordan Hicks said the competitor in him wanted to go back out for Tuesday’s third inning despite his right wrist becoming increasingly tight with swelling after being hit there by a comebacker an inning earlier.
The realist in the 25-year-old flamethrower accepts now that pitching with a compromised wrist probably was not the right thing to do.
Hicks’ strong start was derailed when a line drive off the bat of New York’s Dominic Smith drilled him on the underside of his arm near his wrist. He was able to stay in the game — even though the baseball left seam marks in his skin. Making just the second start of his career, Hicks continued and retired the next batter. He threw in the batting cage between innings with no pain and went back out for the third inning and immediately surrendered back-to-back doubles when his power sinker flattened out and ran back across the plate. A batter later, after he spiked three straight sliders in front of the plate, Hicks nodded to the dugout that his swelling wrist had become too stiff and painful.
“When I went back out there after getting hit, I was like, ‘OK, this definitely got stiffer,’” said Hicks, who was tagged for two runs in the Cardinals 3-0 loss to the Mets on a cold night at Busch Stadium. “I thought I was going to be sharp, and I felt great, but if I could run that [third inning] back, I probably would have told them how I felt. You can only go off how you felt at the moment, and I’m a competitor and I want to be out there — especially on my start day because you only get one of these every five days and it’s not like the bullpen.”
The good news for Hicks and the Cardinals — losers of a series and losers of three straight games for the first time — is the hard-throwing right-hander appears to have avoided serious injury. X-rays on the wrist were negative, and Hicks said he has every intention of making his next start in five days.
“I’ll be excited for this next one and ready to go and I’ll be locked in,” said Hicks, who was cleared for 60-to-65 pitches on Tuesday as he works to build up his arm after making the conversion from reliever to starter. “This is a little different because it’s my throwing arm/hand. I expect the swelling to go down overnight. I’ll probably be no-throw (on Wednesday) and then prepare the next couple of days to make my next start.”
Much like his last start in Miami, Hicks (1-2) didn’t have much room for error because the Cardinals’ bats once again were silenced by a red-hot opposing pitcher. Whereas Pablo López blanked the Cards in Hicks’ previous start in Miami, this time it was Chris Bassitt (3-1) who kept St. Louis off balance. The Cardinals entered with the NL’s second-worst OPS against right-handers and that played right into the hands of Bassitt, who has been hard on righties. The Cardinals’ six right-handed hitters went a combined 2-for-13 with five strikeouts on Tuesday. For the season, Bassitt has limited righties to 3-for-39 with no extra base hits.
“End of the day, when you look at our road trip, facing [Brandon] Woodruff, [Freddy] Peralta, [Adrian] Houser, the lefty [Aaron] Ashby and followed by [Sandy] Alcantara and López, and [Jesús Luzardo in the first game in Miami, start your day off in Cincy with [Hunter] Greene and then [Max] Scherzer here followed by Bassitt, that’s a nice row of arms,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “We’ve got to be able to beat those guys. We’ve faced some good arms, but we’ll see better offense than we’re seeing right now.”
Hicks held New York’s offense in check early by retiring the first four batters he faced. Then, came the smash off Smith’s bat that hit just above his wrist before he could react.
“It was as direct as it gets,” he said bluntly. “I wasn’t scared, but there was some initial shock.”
Hicks threw all his pitches in the batting cage with no problems. However, by the time he got to the mound in the third, he had trouble fully pronating his arm because of the increasing swelling. That swelling, Hicks said, had a lot to do with Jeff McNeil and James McCann hitting consecutive doubles off him in the third to produce the game’s first run.
“The fastball wasn’t as lively as it normally is — it had some sink, but it was flatter than what I’m used to,” he said. “I felt really good and that was the best I’ve felt through two and then I got hit in the second. I feel it would have been a really good outing until that moment. But I plan on coming back strong in the next one.”