Cardinals closer Hicks to have TJ surgery

June 26th, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals closer will have Tommy John surgery on Wednesday morning in St. Louis, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said Tuesday.

An MRI exam on Monday showed that Hicks has a torn UCL in his right elbow, and the closer was placed on the 10-day injured list on Tuesday. Hicks waited for second and third opinions before deciding to get the surgery. Cardinals head orthopedic surgeon Dr. George Paletta will perform the operation.

In corresponding moves, St. Louis recalled right-handed pitchers Daniel Ponce de Leon and Dominic Leone from Triple-A Memphis and optioned left-hander Genesis Cabrera to Memphis. will take over the closer's role.

Hicks injured the elbow in the ninth inning on Saturday against the Angels. He felt a pull in his triceps while striking out David Fletcher and was diagnosed with triceps tendinitis on Sunday. He passed tests on his elbow postgame, which Mozeliak said was atypical for a pitcher who ends up needing Tommy John surgery.

Hicks said he had a feeling it was something worse.

“I think the tests were probably negative because of my adrenaline,” Hicks said. “It was pretty high, just got out of the game, a lot of things. I’m in a good place right now. Getting through it, staying positive.

“If it was going to happen anytime, it’s probably the best time, just for coming-back purposes."

The timetable for recovery is 12-15 months, although the Cardinals wanted to wait for the surgery to be completed before making any predictions for Hicks.

Hicks went 2-2 with a 3.14 ERA and 14 saves this season, striking out 31 in 28 2/3 innings. The 22-year-old made the jump from Class A to the Major Leagues in 2018 and struck out 70 in 77 2/3 innings as a rookie.

“He just grew right before our eyes,” manager Mike Shildt said. “He went from relying on his talent to developing his talent. It’s discouraging to see him come this far and then have a setback, but he’ll be better for it ultimately.”

Hicks threw the fastest pitch in baseball so far this year -- 104.3 mph on May 31 against the Cubs. He’s thrown 48 of the 50 fastest pitches this year.

There have been 444 pitches thrown 100-plus mph this year, and Hicks threw 206 of them -- 46 percent -- according to Statcast.

“A lot of guys have gotten Tommy John and probably throw 90s, and a lot of guys that get it throw 100,” Hicks said. “At the same time, that’s how I pitch. Whatever comes with it, comes with it, and Tommy John’s not strictly about how hard you throw; it’s about how many times you throw, which is something that’s part of this game.”

What is the closer situation?

Martinez will get the bulk of the save opportunities for now, although there's been talk of stretching him out for an eventual return to the rotation. Andrew Miller has closer experience, and John Gant has three saves this year for the Cardinals.

Martinez, who started 118 games with the Cardinals from 2013-18, transitioned to the bullpen last year but had hoped to return to the rotation at some point this season. Mozeliak said Martinez might be stretched into two innings if needed.

“We were trying to stretch him out, giving him two-inning opportunities,” Mozeliak said. “I still wouldn’t rule that out, even in this role because as you look to next year, if we even want to consider him being in the starting role, trying to gain some innings this year, however we do it, it’s something we have to consider.”

The right-hander has two saves this year and had five in ’18 after being moved to the bullpen. He’s the only pitcher in franchise history with five-plus saves and 45-plus starts since saves became official in 1969.

“Carlos is the guy for the natural progression for it,” Shildt said. “It’s not foreign to him. He’s clearly capable of doing it. He’s built for it, not only in his competitive spirit and his desire to seek big moments but in his ability to execute his pitches.”

Reyes will miss 2-3 starts

After exiting his start for Memphis in the second inning on Sunday, Cardinals pitcher will miss two to three starts with a right pectoral strain, Mozeliak said Tuesday.

Reyes removed himself from the game after he showed frustration upon releasing a pitch. He began the night with a pair of strikeouts in the first inning against Oklahoma City.

“We’re not overly concerned, but any time you’re not pitching is not good,” Mozeliak said.

Reyes underwent Tommy John surgery that cost him the entire 2017 season, and he had another setback last year when he had surgery to repair a right lat tendon. He began this season in the Cardinals’ bullpen, but command issues led to a demotion to Triple-A. It’s unclear when Reyes will be back in the Major Leagues.

PLAY campaign moves through St. Louis

The PLAY campaign made a stop at Busch Stadium on Tuesday morning to promote the importance of children living a healthy and active lifestyle.

Over 100 kids from the National Down Syndrome Society and the Cardinals Kids Club took part in the fully inclusive event. They rotated through stretching, defense and hitting stations with Cardinals athletic trainers and infielder Tommy Edman. Then, Edman and the athletic trainers talked with kids about living a healthy lifestyle, taking care of their bodies and being the best athletes they can be.

“I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be given this platform, and it’s my duty to use this platform to give back and serve my community,” Edman said. “I jump at the opportunity to do that.”

The PLAY campaign was created in 2004 to raise awareness about childhood health issues and disability inclusion. It holds events around the United States, including in all 30 Major League ballparks, and educates young people on the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.

It was also an opportunity for Edman to share his baseball knowledge -- and he learned a thing or two about being a professional athlete, too.

“They were working on their bat flips off the tee, with all of the stuff they’ve seen on TV with pimping home runs and stuff,” Edman said. “You can definitely see the influence you have as a professional athlete. You’re on TV and all these kids around the country are watching you.”