Cards won't name Hicks (or anyone) closer

Club plans to also deploy Miller in high-leverage situations

February 15th, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. -- Manager Mike Shildt reiterated on Friday that while will see late-inning work this season, neither he, nor anyone else, is being designated as the team's closer.

The statement came on a day when the Cardinals decided to hold Hicks back from throwing his second bullpen session of spring. The change, Shildt stated, was not the result of an injury concern, but rather part of a scripted program that will have Hicks built up by Opening Day.

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He is expected to throw off the mound next on Saturday.

"Just being prudent," Shildt explained.

That's in part because of the workload Hicks carried during his rookie season. Not only did he make the leap from Class A to the Majors, but he shifted from starting to relieving. After making a combined 34 appearances in the Minors in 2016-17, Hicks logged 73 out of the Cardinals' bullpen in '18. 

Only one rookie (Arizona's ) made more.

Having Hicks ready by Opening Day will give the Cardinals a back-end weapon to complement lefty . The Cardinals intend to deploy the two strategically, preferring to avoid feeling pigeonholed by saving them in predetermined roles. They'll be summoned based on situation, need and availability.

"We're not going to go definitive closer," Shildt said. "The good news about Jordan is he can close, for sure. He did it last year. He's got the weapons. You can expect to see Jordan at the end of games in high-leverage situations."

Positional priorities

The Cardinals plan to have focus all of his defensive work this spring on the outfield, where he'll be a ready backup for both corner positions. There are no plans, Shildt said, to have Martinez appear in Grapefruit League games at first base, which is where he started 84 games last season.

Not only do the Cardinals have several other players who can back up at first, but they hope Martinez can benefit from a more singular defensive focus. Last year, he finished with seven errors and minus-5 Defensive Runs Saved at first base. His DRS in right field registered at minus-6.

"The thing that's nice, but we hope we don't need, is the versatility," Shildt said. "Make sure he's a master of one a little bit more."

Shildt also spoke about the defensive plans for , who has offered to do some outfield work if the team thinks that would enhance his value. He may get a hint of it this spring, but it will not be a priority.

Worth noting

• Like Hicks, had his second bullpen session intentionally pushed back one day. He will throw off the mound on Saturday and will not be involved in the early sessions of live batting practice, which will begin for others on Monday.