Here's another big Hicks number: 101.4 mph

March 14th, 2021

The Cardinals planned for to get an inning of work in his first game since June 2019.

They didn’t expect an inning’s worth to come against one batter.

Nevertheless, Hicks’ standoff against Mets second baseman Luis Guillorme -- 22 pitches, one walk -- amid a 7-5 loss to New York on Sunday gave plenty of impressions about where the flamethrowing right-hander stands in his return from Tommy John surgery.

How would his arm respond to game action? How could he tunnel any emotions from facing off against another team again? Simply: How would he look?

“What happens if he gets in high pitch counts? That got answered pretty immediately,” manager Mike Shildt said with a laugh. “… As far as Jordan’s stuff, I could not have been more encouraged there.”

Hicks topped out at 101.4 mph, tossing six pitches over the 100 mph plateau. His first? 99.8 on the black at the top of the zone.

His second?

“That slider was dirty,” Shildt said.

Said Hicks: “Once you get that confidence and just let it go, you don't go back to where you were. I've been itching to let it go.”

Most important is the clean bill of health Hicks reported after the outing. Outside of fatigued legs -- 22 pitches without a respite will do that to you -- Hicks is still under a watchful eye on his reconstructed right elbow, but he gets closer every day to where he’s treated like any healthy pitcher.

The Cardinals, however, have one more big question they need to answer when it comes to Hicks: When will he pitch?

The club has preached patience assigning him to any role. A lot will be determined in his outlook for the rest of spring, which won’t feature many back-to-back outings, he said, but getting into a game every three to four days.

But as just one at-bat with Guillorme showed, Hicks needs to be ready for anything.

“It was probably the last thing I thought was going to happen,” Hicks said.

Monkey off Carpenter’s back
The Cardinals have a question to answer this season. The 35-year-old battling with Tommy Edman for the second-base job was 0-for-15 entering Sunday, drawing four walks compared to seven strikeouts and falling victim to some wind and tough-luck batted balls.

President of baseball ops John Mozeliak said on Tuesday that Carpenter’s role is still too early to be cemented, but “as we get maybe 10 days from now or two weeks or so, this question is going to have to be answered differently.”

Carpenter gave a glimpse of positive developments on Sunday, driving in Tyler O’Neill with a hard-hit double to the base of the wall in right-center for his first hit of the spring. He also made a nifty play at second base on a slow roller up the middle to throw out James McCann and end the fifth inning.

“We mentioned the other day how that the walks, the eyes, the longer at-bats, are more indicative to how Carp would take an at-bat,” Shildt said. “That tells you that things are looking in a positive direction.”

Around the horn

accentuated his solid showing on Sunday with a 97.9 mph fastball on his penultimate pitch of the afternoon. All told: four innings, five hits, two runs, one walk and three strikeouts. The right-hander has all but secured himself a spot in the rotation, with Kwang Hyun Kim and Miles Mikolas on the shelf. And he also became the first Cards hurler to take swings in a Grapefruit League game.

“I’m throwing with power right now,” Martínez said. “When I need to throw hard, I can do it. … I want to show that I have power, and sometimes the hitters need to see my fastball.”

will start the Cards’ contest against the Nationals on Monday, meaning ’s next turn will come via live batting practice against his teammates Tuesday, an off-day for the team.

• Outfielder is penciled in for a return to action on Monday after battling a left quad ailment. The non-roster invitee has not appeared in a game since March 2.