Jordan Hicks Ready To Prove the Giants Made the Right Choice

In his first spring back working as a starting pitcher, Jordan Hicks updates us on how the transition is going with the San Francisco Giants.

Jordan Hicks (12) of the San Francisco Giants throws live BP during the workout at Scottsdale Stadium.
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 20: Jordan Hicks (12) of the San Francisco Giants throws live BP during the workout at Scottsdale Stadium on February 20, 2024 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Andy Kuno/San Francisco Giants/Getty Images)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Rain doesn’t fall often during spring training in Arizona. However, the one day it did in mid-March was a day that San Francisco Giants starter Jordan Hicks would have much rather been facing the Oakland A’s than finishing his outing in the bowels of Scottsdale Stadium.

After all, this is a spring where Hicks is still working into not only his routine with the Giants after signing a four-year, $44 million deal this offseason, but also entering his first MLB season where he knows he will be part of the rotation rather than coming out of the bullpen.

“I feel really good, a little bit better than I expected,” Hicks said. “I threw 48 pitches (previous start before rain) and then 65 but it was in the cages. I tried, but you can’t really simulate a game there. You can try your best, but it’s not the same intensity. So I didn’t really get that sore the next day.

“I still have two more (starts) before the season. I feel really good in my build up with the pitch count, and better than expected with the recovery. And that’s the main thing for me is recovery but I like where my stuff is at as well.”

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That “stuff” includes an electric fastball and sinker that both touched triple-digits again last season as well as a slider that Hicks has seen progress as a weapon this spring.

“My slider was really sharp. I was almost like, ‘Dang, I wish I was able to pitch because it felt even better than my last outing,” Hicks said of the start that was shuffled because of the rain. “My slider was a little bit up in my outing before that, so my focus throughout the week was getting it more down in the zone.”

Hicks also knows that part of the adjustment this spring is not only to his new role but also to a spring spent in the desert rather than in the Grapefruit League. That includes how the baseball feels in his hand without the humidity that he trained with previously on Florida’s Atlantic coast.

“The balls are more glass. Even when I played in the dome here (Chase Field), I’d get that same feeling,” Hicks said. “But you find the little things that help you get used to it, like finding a rosin that gives you a consistent feel. Find that consistent feel no matter what climate you’re in so you can take your brain off of that.”

A third-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2016 MLB Draft, Hicks made his debut with the Cardinals in 2018 and was a fixture in the bullpen for the vast majority of the 187 games he played for the Redbirds. However, there was a stint in 2022 when Hicks started eight games for the Cardinals. But, after those eight games, a right forearm flexor strain forced him to the injured list and ultimately back to the bullpen.

A trade deadline pickup by the Toronto Blue Jays last season, Hicks hoped to find a team that would give him a chance to be a starter in 2024. San Francisco made Hicks’ offseason hopes a reality in mid-January when they inked him to a deal.

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“I wanted to prepare for that role in the offseason, even not knowing if I was really going to get that opportunity,” Hicks said. “Just because you want something doesn’t really mean you’re going to get it, but I think it’s easier to build up in the offseason than do it once you arrive at spring training.”

Sure, there is still plenty of time until the Giants open the season on March 28 in San Diego against the Padres, but San Francisco manager Bob Melvin is liking what he is seeing from Hicks.

“His fastball is always going to play, but it’s the breaking ball he’s working really hard on. I think all his strikeouts last game came with the breaking ball,” Melvin said. “With his repertoire, he’s not really a guy who needs to have too many pitches. But as long as he has something going away from a righty and something he can spin behind in the count, which he’s been working on and has been doing pretty well, his fastball, two- and four-seamer, are always going to play.”

Hicks called his slider “a putaway pitch” but added that it can be viewed as a setup pitch as well because it “opens up the sinker a lot.” He also added that both pitches will be viewed with a little different mindset as a starter.

“It’s like finesse more than power and trying to get as many quick outs as I can,” Hicks said. “I want the ball in play. I have late movement on pretty much everything so trying to get them on the ground early.”

While spring training is spent tinkering with mechanics and pitches for many pitchers, Hicks is adding in focusing on his routine as a starter as well. Midway through March, the 27-year-old right-hander is pleased with his progress and happy to be where he is.

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“Knowing my slider was in the zone against Oakland, I felt like the path was wide open,” Hicks said. “Learning a lot of that and having the time off and getting back into it, it’s just so much more fun for me. Breaking down the game and figuring out what you’re going to do against this guy or that guy, it’s just so much more enjoyable for me.”