The purpose of Spring Training is to prepare for the regular season, but for many players, it is also the time to make an impression. A spot may not be available today on the 25-man roster, but as the season progresses things can change and a strong impression in Spring Training can often pay off at a later date. And that may be just the case for pitcher Jordan Hicks, who made quite the impression today with his live pitching session.
Radar guns weren’t being used, but the sound of his velocity opened a lot of eyes and raised the eyebrows of those watching. That crowd included the likes of John Mozeliak, Chris Carpenter, and Marcell Ozuna–who literally stopped in his tracks as he caught his first glimpse at a delivery from Hicks.
“98mph, inside hip pocket?,” called out Ozuna, who received a knowing wink from a coach standing at the back of the cage.
Luke Voit was in the hitting group that faced Hicks.
“I’ve got that for my first live?” said Voit. “A lot of potential. Super-heavy. Mid-to-upper 90s. I didn’t realize he had sink on it, too. He got me to rollover. I guess more of a slurve I think.”
“I was like, ‘Dang!’ I mean, it’s heavy, man. It gets on you…so I was impressed. There was a lot of hype about him and from what I heard from last season – and I was impressed, just like everybody else was.”
Dexter Fowler shook his head as he watched on. Kolten Wong took a slider over the fence, but afterwards also shared how “heavy” the pitches were and how difficult the movement was to deal with at that velocity.
Everybody seemed to be impressed–except Jordan Hicks.
“It was good, just wish I had thrown more strikes,” said Hicks. “My arm felt great. Slider wasn’t as sharp as I wanted it but first live BP, a little bit of nerves, first big league camp, but I’ll get there.”
Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft by St. Louis out of Cypress Creek High School in Houston, Texas, Hicks has a fastball that has been clocked in triple-digits.
“I wasn’t just letting it fly,” he said of today’s session. “My arm was a little late, that’s it. I think I just felt like some adrenaline, first one. Had some a little bit behind it on the fastball. It was good.”
And like most of those pitchers who possess a big arm, the 21-year old knows the extra velocity is there if he needs it.
“I can reach back a little bit and get it,” acknowledged Hicks. “I try not to every pitch because then I won’t be able to last as long. Whenever I need it, if I need it, whenever I think I need it, I’ll use it.”
And with that kind of velocity–with movement…
“I thought he was just one of those spin rate guys,” said Voit. “If he can have that, with a fastball that can blow you away, and just get ground balls, that’s kind of what Carlos is. It’s impressive.”
Last season, Hicks compiled a record of 8-3 with a 2.74 ERA as he started 19 of 22 games between Peoria (A) and Palm Beach (A+). He struck out 95 batters in 105.0 innings pitched.
As for today, an hour after practice had ended Ozuna was still raving about the stuff he had seen. Walking across the clubhouse he told Tommy Pham that was the type of “fastball that can put you out of the game.”
“I try to take every little bit of advice that they give me,” said Hicks. “They’ve been around much longer than I have. It feels good that they want to teach me and tell me about that kind of stuff.”
“(Ozuna) said that I have good stuff and he told me I don’t have to try and throw so hard, I already naturally throw hard. When I can spot up, he said that’s when I’ll be really good.”
photo credit: Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com