Hicks marks milestone with 'B' game outing

March 10th, 2021

On a back field at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on Wednesday, out of the public eye, one of the Cardinals’ most prized arms hit a milestone.

faced an opposing team for the first time since June 2019, and it appears there was little rust to shed.

“I don't think it would have mattered what lens you're looking [through],” said manager Mike Shildt. "Looking at it from your vantage point, my vantage point, standing upside down on your head -- I don't know if it mattered. It was pretty darn good.”

Facing the Nationals in a "B" game, Hicks delivered a 1-2-3 inning on just 11 pitches, striking out one and inducing a pair of groundouts, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Hicks’ exact velocity was not known, but his pitching coach said recently that the right-hander flashed 102 mph on the radar gun in a live batting practice session.

Assuming Hicks' recovery from Wednesday goes well, his next outing will likely be in the Grapefruit League, which would mark his participation in an officially scored game for the first time since June 22, 2019. Following his outing that day, Hicks underwent Tommy John surgery, and he opted out of the 2020 season as a high-risk individual for COVID-19 (Type 1 diabetes).

The Cardinals will not rush him back. Shildt said that he can’t rule out using Hicks as the closer, his role in ’19, but it’s entirely possible that the club could give him low-leverage outings early to get his feet wet.

In any event, it’s getting close to the point where the monitoring of Hicks is the same as for other players -- no special precautions necessary.

"He's pretty much cleared all ways, shapes and forms,” Shildt said. “Physically, emotionally, mentally.”

It remains to be seen how fast Hicks can throw on a regular basis, with overpowering velocity his calling card. It doesn’t seem to be an issue so far.

Actually, could he throw even faster now?

“I could not rule it out. That’d be pretty amazing,” Shildt said. “Jordan has the velocity. Let’s just be a strike-thrower and let the velocity play.”

Flaherty bounces back

Ace Jack Flaherty called his first Grapefruit League outing “terrible” after he had his first inning rolled over and then didn't record an out in the second. He called his second start “on the right track,” as he cruised through three innings, gave up a homer in the fourth and then rebounded for two more strikeouts to end his day at four frames and 64 pitches in a 3-2 loss to the Nationals.

In between the two starts, Flaherty took part in a back-field “B” game against the Astros on Friday, during which he was able to tinker with mechanics as he looks to fortify a rotation that will be without Miles Mikolas to begin the season.

“Was able to get more feel for breaking balls,” Flaherty said. “Just attacking a little bit more. Still didn’t have a great feel for a couple pitches until we got there in that last inning, but it was good to make adjustments.”

Though the Cardinals played a “B” game vs. the Nats on Wednesday morning, Flaherty couldn’t turn down the chance to face Washington's Max Scherzer.

“That was Jack Flaherty to a T,” Shildt said.

Around the horn

• John Gant got the start in Wednesday’s “B” game, stretching out to four innings. Gant is among the clubhouse leaders for a spot in the rotation, and Wednesday’s start did nothing to derail him, Shildt said.

• Harrison Bader (sore right forearm) returned to the lineup on Wednesday after playing just two games early in Grapefruit League action, going 0-for-3 while batting ninth and playing center.

Promo scheduled unveiled

With fans set to return to Busch Stadium on Opening Day, the Cardinals on Wednesday unveiled some of the giveaway items planned for the first few weeks of the regular season, including a vintage jersey and a trio of mystery bobbleheads.

April giveaways are as follows:

April 8, vs. Milwaukee (home opener): 2021 magnet schedule

April 10-11, vs. Milwaukee: Opening Day parade bobbleheads featuring Stan Musial, Jack Buck and Tony La Russa

April 12-14, vs. Washington: Cardinals-style puffy vests

April 23-25, vs. Cincinnati: 1944-style vintage jerseys

April 26-28, vs. Philadelphia: Jack Buck statue replica with voice chip

April 29, vs. Philadelphia: Lou Brock and Bob Gibson lapel pin set