Some St. Louis Cardinals fans have looked to Jordan Hicks to become Cardinals "official closer". But as of Friday, manager Mike Shildt simply stated in his interview at the end of the day, "We're not going to go definitive closer. The good news about Jordan is he can close for sure, he did it last year." (KMOX.com)
Last season, Hicks did log six saves in his 13 opportunities. After Cardinals closer Bud Norris (28 saves) dealt with a couple of injuries - blistered finger & hamstring - late in the season, Hicks was the late inning choice by Shildt. With Carlos Martinez being placed in the bullpen, returning from his third IL visit, Shildt called upon C Martinez for the ninth.
We all know that Hicks has the power. The flamethrower with triple digit missiles. However, control and consistency was still missing from the young 21 year old hurler's execution from the hill. Impressive as it is to see 104 mph, (a couple clocked at 105 mph); but, if not in the zone, if no movement to throw the hitter off - it is just that. Now you see it, now you don't.
Hicks was brought into Cardinals 2018 Spring camp from Cardinals Palm Beach A+ league and the Arizona Fall League as an invitee. He made the Opening Day roster and made his debut facing the New York Mets in the Cardinals first game of the 2018 season.
He did not have the luxury of working his way through the ranks. His maturity to handle the majors is incredible. He is quiet, reserved and concentrates on 'his job'. This amazing young hurler still needs refinement from the hill which he is working on during Spring Training. Cardinals pitching coach Mike Maddux and former Cardinals "Ace" Chris Carpenter are monitoring his progress, along with all the other pitchers. For the Cardinals to have the 'two-way' observation ability, to me, is a very good thing - two sets of eyes, front and back view.
Last season he turned in a 3.59 ERA in 73 games/77.2 IP/1.339 WHIP. He held a 45-77/BB-SO ratio, while allowing only 2 HR, he also gave up 31 ER which indicates to me, even though extreme speed on the ball, he was predictable. The downside of being a rookie. Even though, he took the ball when called to the hill to pitch to his capability without hesitation.
He turned 22 this past September. He now has the highest level of experience facing hitters a young hurler can obtain. He has the potential to be an extreme and solid reliever. This upcoming season, he will again be used in late inning situations. The upside, whether he faces right or left-handed hitters really shouldn't be a concern. Hopefully not in the upcoming season. As a rookie, he gave up 18 RBI by the lefties and 16 by those on the right.
And, manager Shildt reiterated, Hicks still needs to be "consistent". On the flipside, Schildt will give Hicks plenty of playing time during the Spring games in preparation for the upcoming season.
As of yesterday, with Shildt's firm answer to inquiring reporters - the Cardinals have not named, in stone, one particular reliever as "closer". He will chose a different pitcher each day to talk about with the press. Yesterday happened to be, Jordan Hicks.
CARDINALS SPRING TRAINING
As I am not privy to 'onsite observation' watching our Cardinals in Spring Training. Yadier Molina, still working out strengthening his knee, just not suited up at the moment. He is working along side former Cardinals #2 catcher Tony Cruz, who is now Cardinals minor league instructor for catchers. Save the return of Francisco Pena, who has been backstop for Hicks as back-up to Molina last season. Do the remaining catchers draw straws as to who will catch Hicks for the day? For some, this is their first. Are they truly prepared for Cardinals "flamethrower".
I believe I would be safe in saying, catching Hicks will be a memorable experience at the very least.
Young Hicks is exciting to watch. His pitches are extreme. Now, to see containment, control and consistency ~ he will be hold dominance over any hitter.