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Cardinals' Hicks opts out of 2020 season

@anne__rogers
July 13, 2020

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals closer Jordan Hicks has opted out of the 2020 season, citing pre-existing health concerns, the club announced Monday. Hicks, 23, was identified as a high-risk player because he has Type 1 diabetes, which is considered a pre-existing condition. Hicks is also recovering from Tommy John surgery

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals closer Jordan Hicks has opted out of the 2020 season, citing pre-existing health concerns, the club announced Monday.

Hicks, 23, was identified as a high-risk player because he has Type 1 diabetes, which is considered a pre-existing condition. Hicks is also recovering from Tommy John surgery performed last June. Players who are deemed high-risk and opt out of the season receive their full prorated pay and service time for 2020. Hicks will be arbitration eligible for the first time in '21, and he is the first player with a pre-existing condition to opt out of the season. Twelve players around the league have elected not to play and will not receive pay or service time.

“I’d like to thank the Cardinals and my teammates for their support in my decision,” Hicks wrote on social media. “I look forward to being a part of winning a World Series in 2021 for Cardinal National and using my platform to create more awareness for the diabetic community.”

“We respect and understand Jordan’s decision to opt out this season,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said in a statement. “We wish him well as he continues his recovery from elbow surgery, and we look forward to seeing Jordan back on the mound for the 2021 season.”

The hard-throwing right-hander appeared in 29 games last season with 14 saves before he underwent a full reconstruction of his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in June 2019. Despite not pitching in the final three months of the season, Hicks threw the 21 fastest pitches of '19, including a 104.3-mph fastball on May 31.

In two years as a Cardinal, Hicks has a 3.47 ERA and 20 saves in 102 games.

In Spring Training, Hicks said he knew he had to be conscious of his health when protecting himself from COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, having Type 1 diabetes may increase risk of severe illness from COVID-19 for people of any age.

The Cardinals purposefully added at least a month to Hicks’ rehab schedule, because they were unsure of how Type 1 diabetes would alter his recovery. Hicks said this spring that he had no setbacks in his recovery. He had advanced in his rehab program to throwing bullpen sessions, and on the Cards’ second day of Summer Camp, he threw an extended 'pen session at Busch Stadium. Manager Mike Shildt said the next day that Hicks had recovered well.

The team was not looking for Hicks to be available in the first week of games, but Shildt said a mid-August return to the bullpen was possible. The Cardinals expect Hicks to be at full strength for Spring Training in 2021.

With less than two weeks before Opening Day against the Pirates at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals are still searching for a closer. The bullpen has experienced a few key losses, and it will have to rely on its young pitching depth and talent come July 24.

Righty John Brebbia, who was going to be a setup reliever, had Tommy John surgery in June and will miss the entire year. Giovanny Gallegos, who had a 2.31 ERA as a setup man last year and has the chance to close games this year, has been unable to travel from Mexico to attend Summer Camp in St. Louis. The Cardinals have not given a reason for Gallegos’ absence, and it is unclear when he’ll be able to travel. Alex Reyes is in St. Louis, but he has not attended workouts yet, and lefty Génesis Cabrera tested positive for COVID-19 for a second time over the weekend.

Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.