Hicks 'in a good spot' as he nears career-high innings mark

June 12th, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO -- has never thrown more than 77 2/3 innings in a single season since debuting in the Majors in 2018, but he’s on pace to blow past that number now that he’s a full-time starter for the Giants.

After giving up three runs over 4 2/3 innings in Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to the Astros at Oracle Park, Hicks is up to 71 2/3 innings through 14 starts this season, creating questions about how the Giants will handle the converted reliever’s workload this summer.

Hicks dialed back his high-octane velocity to better handle the transition to starting this year, though he’s managed to remain effective even without regularly touching triple-digits, tied for ninth in the National League with a 3.01 ERA this year.

The 27-year-old right-hander threw 72 pitches on Tuesday and likely would have pitched deeper into the game under normal circumstances, but the Giants wanted to be careful with him since he was dealing with flu-like symptoms and received IVs over the last couple of days.

Hicks felt his stuff was good despite the illness, though his back began to tighten up from lying in bed, and he was pulled after giving up a two-run infield single to Alex Bregman with two outs in the fifth. Trey Cabbage singled and former Giant Mauricio Dubón doubled to set the table for Bregman, who tapped a softly hit grounder to the left side to snap a 1-1 tie and put Houston ahead for good.

Third baseman Matt Chapman, who returned to the starting lineup after missing two games with a sore hamstring, nearly got Hicks out of the jam by charging in to make a barehanded grab on the play, but he made an errant throw to first base that allowed Bregman to reach safely and knock in both runs.

“It’s just baseball,” Hicks said. “Overall, I felt like my stuff was pretty sharp. I really liked where everything was. I feel like every run came on a ball that wasn’t hit hard. But they put themselves in a good position with a couple of doubles.”

While his average sinker velocity was down nearly 2 mph, Hicks still generated 14 swing-and-misses and departed after striking out five and walking one.

“He pitched well,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He was sick. He’s been sick for a couple of days. It ends up being basically a swinging bunt that ends up with a couple of runs. Other than that, he gave up one run, that was a scratch run to begin with. So I think based on what he was dealing with today, the line doesn’t look great, [but] I thought he pitched pretty well.”

The Giants’ bats couldn’t pick up Hicks, as they mustered only three hits and scored their lone run of the game via Brett Wisely’s third-inning solo shot off Astros starter Ronel Blanco.

“He’s got good stuff,” Melvin said of Blanco. “He throws hard. He throws an assortment of breaking balls. Just enough fastballs to keep you off the breaking stuff. He’s got a 2.60 ERA right now. We just couldn’t solve him. We couldn’t make him work hard enough. He ends up throwing six innings, only one walk, eight strikeouts. It was just tough to square him up.”

Hicks has been unable to complete five innings in each of his last two outings, though he said he’s confident he’ll be able to rebound once he gets back to full strength. The Giants have been leaning on him to hold down a rotation spot this season, but they may eventually have to consider shifting him back to the bullpen once Blake Snell (left groin strain), Alex Cobb (left hip surgery) and Robbie Ray (Tommy John surgery) return from the injured list in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, Hicks is eager to continue his starting journey and keep showing that he can handle his ever-increasing workload with the Giants.

“The past two haven’t been ideal,” Hicks said. “Not going at least five or six. But I think I’ll have a good bounce back against the Cubs, hopefully, and then just go from there. Take it one day at a time. I feel like it’s been a good process. A fun journey. We’re kind of right in the mix. I feel like we’re in a good spot and just want to keep going.”