Hicks, Cards prospects shine in AFL

October 15th, 2021

PEORIA, Ariz. – Jordan Hicks’ road back to St. Louis is running through the Arizona Fall League.

On Thursday, the Cardinals' right-hander -- who has seen limited action in the last six months due to an arm injury -- displayed a sizzling fastball. But more importantly, he showed the promise of a successful return to the big leagues in the 11-9 victory by his Glendale Desert Dogs against the Peoria Javelinas. He struck out three in a 40-pitch outing, allowing two runs on a hit and a walk over two frames.

But Hicks wasn’t the only Cardinals player to shine on Thursday afternoon. Outfielder Lars Nootbar sparked the Glendale offense with a solo home run on the very first pitch of the game. He tacked on a three-run home run in the seventh and finished with three hits and four RBIs.

Cardinals first baseman prospect Juan Yepez, ranked No. 27 in the St. Louis system, also got into the action with two hits, including a home run. Nolan Gorman, the club’s top prospect and MLB's No. 24, went 2-for-5 with a run scored and is on a roll. He hit a three-run home run in the AFL opener Wednesday.

Dodgers prospects James Outman and Jacob Amaya and Houston’s Grae Kessinger also homered for Glendale.

As for Hicks, he retired No. 6 Seattle prospect Zach DeLoach on one pitch to start the game and walked the next hitter, Pittsburgh's No. 22 prospect Ji-hwan Bae on four pitches. MLB's No. 97 prospect Bryson Stott (Philadelphia) lined out to left field for the second out.

Hicks was on his way to escaping the inning unscathed when he struck out the next hitter, Seattle designated hitter and No. 27 prospect Cade Marlowe on a pitch that bounced over the plate, allowing Marlowe to reach first base safely and Bae to score from third to tie the game. Jesse Franklin (Atlanta) followed with an RBI single to put the Javelinas ahead, 2-1.

Hicks retired the side in order in the second inning. His fastball was typically in the 96-98 mph range, and he touched 99 mph. His slider was consistently 81-83 mph.

In some ways, simply getting on the mound was a victory in itself, especially when you consider how eventful the last two years have been for the right-hander.

Hicks, who underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the second half of 2019, opted out of the ’20 season as a high-risk individual (Type 1 diabetes). Upon his long-awaited return this season, the right-hander struck out 10 and walked 10 while posting a 5.40 ERA in 10 innings before his big league season was cut short because an elbow injury on May 1. He was placed on the 60-day injured list on May 14.

Last month, Hicks gave up five runs on five hits in three innings during three appearances for Triple-A Memphis as part of his rehab assignment. This month, he is in Arizona working his way back “home.”