MILWAUKEE — It only took until the fourth and final game of the series in Milwaukee to get Jordan Hicks a planned appearance out of the Cardinals’ bullpen.
Now the move to the rotation can really speed up.
Hicks pitched two scoreless innings Sunday in relief, raised both his pitch count (35) and velocity (102 mph), and should, weather permitting, make the long-awaited first start of his major-league career in his next game. How the right-hander feels Tuesday in Miami will determine whether the Cardinals schedule for him to start as early as Thursday against the Marlins.
“Hopefully, this is that one that gets him on schedule moving forward, like he’s actually in the rotation, in a specific spot,” manager Oliver Marmol said. “And moving from there like everybody else.”
The Cardinals have twice penciled Hicks in for starts this season. But because of rainouts and the regular schedule they wish to keep other starters on, Hicks’ debut in the rotation has been delayed and delayed again.
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Although at one point in spring training the Cardinals discussed the possibility of opening the season with a six-man rotation, they have effectively gone two weeks with a four-man rotation. Adam Wainwright will start Tuesday and Miles Mikolas is targeted for Wednesday’s game. Both will be making their third start before Hicks, the fifth starter, gets his first.
The goal Sunday was to have Hicks pitch two innings, regardless of outcome. If there wasn’t a spot for him in the game, Marmol said Hicks would have warmed up and simulated some innings in the bullpen, just to avoid going several days without throwing.
The Cardinals want to build Hicks’ stamina on the job, and how he recovers from Sunday’s two innings will influence whether they aim for three innings in his first start. The team would prefer to place Hicks’ start between Wainwright and Mikolas — two veterans expected to shoulder at least six innings, freeing the bullpen to cover Hicks’ leftovers — and ultimately might adjust the rotation to get him there.
In his two innings Sunday, Hicks allowed the first batter he faced to single on a broken-bat flare to center. He struck the next batter out with a 99-mph sinker. Two batters later, Hicks struck out left-handed hitter Omar Narvaez with a 102-mph sinker. He dropped a slider on right-handed hitter Willy Adames to end the sixth inning with his third strikeout of the outing.
Hicks threw the 19 fastest pitches of the game and 10 at 100 mph or swifter.
“Three punch outs,” Marmol said. “Did a nice job with (the sinker) running it up there a couple of times. So he’s able to tap into that when needed.”
Waino’s invitation from Uecker
The day after every start, Adam Wainwright turns on some tunes and goes for what he calls an “old man walk” around the ballpark, and this year he plans to see what the view is from the press boxes around MLB.
In Milwaukee, he stopped by the booth Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Uecker calls home and thought, “I’m going to sit in his chair.”
Wainwright didn’t “out of respect.”
But Uecker found out about Wainwright’s visit and invited him up for a conversation and a photo. Wainwright had another proposal: What if he got on the air with Uecker?
“I felt like this is my chance, why not take the shot — what if I join you for an inning?” Wainwright said. “That was like a bucket list thing for me.”
With permission from Major League Baseball, Wainwright joined Uecker for the fifth inning of Saturday’s game. The Cardinals’ veteran also did a half inning with Dan McLaughlin and Brad Thompson on the Bally Sports Midwest telecast.
Wainwright has been part of the broadcast booth team for playoff games the past two Octobers, and an offer to call games from a network inevitably awaits him when he retires. In the meantime, he’ll do cameos like Saturday’s — and play a starring role in the film the Cardinals are putting together. The team has been tracking behind the scenes footage of him, Yadier Molina, and Albert Pujols this season.
Gorman good for launch
Top prospect Nolan Gorman’s first spring training with a chance to claim a spot on the big-league roster ended sooner and less successfully than the team hoped, but he’s quickly found the next way to force a conversation about promotion. At Class AAA Memphis, Gorman hit his sixth home run of the season Sunday and has homered in four consecutive games.
In his past 86 games at Triple-A, Gorman has 20 homers.
“I think every organization is only as good as their depth, and that’s not only your ‘pen and your long guys and your guys on the bench,’” Marmol said. “It’s what you have down below because at some point you’re going to have to draw from it. And if you can continue to move forward without skipping a beat because you’ve got guys who are more than competent to contribute at this level that’s a huge plus.”
Gorman, 21, started at DH on Sunday and has continued to play second base for the Redbirds. Those are the two places the Cardinals expect Gorman to appear when he makes the leap to the majors.
They were open to him hitting his way into the majors through the shortened spring. He hit .125 with seven strikeouts in 16 at-batsand coaches felt the young left-handed hitter was anxious and pressing during his first audition to make an opening-day roster.
Marmol spoke to Gorman about how his time was not now, but soon.
“You may be up here for 100 games. You may be up here for two. I have no idea,” Marmol recalled saying. “But make sure you’re ready for whatever number that is whenever it comes up. … He’s a good player who is going to contribute here for a long time – it’s important for him to know.”