ST. LOUIS, Mo. — For years, Cardinals’ fireballer Jordan Hicks dreamed of being a starting pitcher — even when he was throwing 105.1 and 104.3 mph fastballs out of the bullpen as a setup man and a closer. Now, just as Hicks was finally on the precipice of his first career start, it turns out he will have to wait a little longer.
When rain wiped out the finale of the four-game series between the Cardinals and the Pirates on Monday, it meant Dakota Hudson’s turn in the rotation would be pushed to Tuesday against the Royals. Hicks, who was originally scheduled to start on Tuesday, will instead be used out of the bullpen behind Hudson. The Cardinals could have pushed Hicks’ start back a day, but the decision was made to not disrupt staff ace Adam Wainwright’s throwing schedule, so he will pitch the finale against the Royals on Wednesday.
As for Hicks, his next opportunity to start will be against the Brewers in Milwaukee on Saturday.
“This just allows us to keep everything on track,” said Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol, who was back at Busch Stadium on Monday following a two-day bout with the flu. “If you look at it, going into that Milwaukee series, I’d love to have [Wainwright] throw Game 1 there, but having a full, healthy ‘pen going into that four-game set also makes sense.
“[As for Hicks], he stays on track with what we originally told him, which is important. We’ll let the game play out. He’s [come out of the ‘pen] in the past, and it’s a matter of him doing the work in between that’s more important than anything.”
The Cardinals will make up Monday’s rained-out game against the Pirates on June 14 as part of a split doubleheader. St. Louis won the first two games of the series, but it lost 9-4 on Sunday when starter Steven Matz was roughed up for seven runs — five of which came in the third inning when the lefty developed a blister on his finger that wouldn’t allow him to fully command his pitches, Marmol said. The manager doesn’t think it will be an issue going forward.
“What I love about the guy is that he’s not going to give himself an out and disclose that at all,” said Marmol, referring to the Cardinals’ $44 million free-agent acquisition. “Was he able to finish the pitches? Not the way he wanted to, but Matz is going to be totally fine.”
Tuesday was set to be a big day in the Hicks family, with Jordan receiving his first starting pitching assignment since 2017 when he was in the Minor Leagues, and his sister, Avery, scheduled to deliver her third baby in less than three years. Hicks said he had to convince his mother, Jennifer, to stay in Texas for the birth of the child instead of traveling to St. Louis to see him pitch.
“I was like, ‘Mom, this kid is bigger than baseball,’” Hicks said with a laugh.
Hicks made the remarkable leap from Class A to the Major Leagues in 2018, when he used a blazing fastball to register 24 holds and six saves out of the Cardinals’ bullpen. That season, the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder fired a 105.1 mph fastball that tied Aroldis Chapman for the fastest-recorded pitch in MLB history. In 2019, he had the fastest pitch of that season (104.3 mph), and he became the Cardinals’ closer with 14 saves in 15 opportunities.
However, Hicks’ enormous promise was put on hold when he needed Tommy John surgery to repair ligament damage in his right elbow in 2019. A Type 1 diabetic, Hicks opted out of the ’20 season, and he reinjured his elbow in ’21 after making 10 appearances
This season, Hicks beat out Jake Woodford and Drew VerHagen for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. When he does eventually start, Marmol said he’ll likely be limited to 45 pitches until he builds up his arm strength. Hicks is excited about the moment — even if he doesn’t outwardly show it.
“My mom used to ask me — with how I looked on the field — if I wanted to be there?” Hicks said of his stoic emotions. “Even though it might not have looked like it on the outside — and it might have gotten me in some trouble with coaches — in my heart and mind, if I didn’t want to do something, I wouldn’t be here. I don’t know if [being even-keeled] helps, but it’s just how I am.”