JUPITER, Fla. -- The results on the back fields, the spring thinking goes, hardly matter. The impressions, though, the takeaways, could go a long way toward shaping a season. Take Tuesday, for example, when Cardinals pitchers faced hitters for the first time in live batting practice.Luke Voit won't remember grounding
JUPITER, Fla. -- The results on the back fields, the spring thinking goes, hardly matter. The impressions, though, the takeaways, could go a long way toward shaping a season. Take Tuesday, for example, when Cardinals pitchers faced hitters for the first time in live batting practice.
Luke Voit won't remember grounding a Jordan Hicks sinker to short. Kolten Wong won't remember squaring up one of Hicks' heaters, then squibbing the next. But Voit won't forget the sink, just like Wong won't forget the sizzle that made him hop out from under the batting turtle, hands stinging, and say: "Wow. Even when you hit this kid, you have to [really] hit it."
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Voit and Wong were the only Cardinals to face Hicks, the owner of the one of the youngest and more powerful arms in camp and the No. 13 Cards prospect per MLB Pipeline. But they were two of the many with an opinion after seeing the 21-year-old throw in a competitive setting for the first time. A crowd of coaches and veterans gathered to watch Hicks, who despite not pitching above Class A figures to factor into the club's bullpen picture this season, along with fellow hard-throwing prospects Dakota Hudson and Ryan Helsley, the Cards' No. 7 and No. 22 prospects, respectively.
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Hicks' fastball, which is said to have hit 102 mph, inspired whistles and exaggerated facial expressions from behind the batting cage.
"That's the impression I want to make," Hicks said afterward. "I want to leave it all out there, no matter where I'm at. This was the first competitive one, so I felt really amped up."
Hours later, it still had the clubhouse talking.
"It's heavy, hard and with lots of sink," Wong said.
"There was a lot of hype about him and from what I heard," said Voit. "And I was impressed, just like everybody else was."
Despite the calls for them to sign a certain high-profile closer, the club's reluctance to commit to a particular ninth-inning option stems from its expectation that, at some point, Hicks, Helsley and Hudson factor in. All have fastballs that can reach triple digits. Hicks has a four-seamer he's learning to locate up, and a two-seamer that runs down and in to righties.
"He's going to shatter some bats," Wong said.
Helsley, 23, throws four pitches. The highlight is his heater, which routinely hovers around 98 mph. Hudson, also 23, relies on a power sinker and wipeout slider. Both reached Triple-A Memphis last season.
Helsley was part of the group that threw to hitters Tuesday. He inspired gossip by striking out infielder Breyvic Valera, an extreme contact hitter who may make the club specifically because of his ability to put the ball in play.
"He never strikes out," Helsley said. "If I struck him out, it was an OK day."
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.