Cardinals flamethrower Jordan Hicks impresses Pirates

May 27, 2018 GMT

Jordan Hicks created a buzz around baseball when the 21-year-old right-hander tied Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman for the fastest pitch ever recorded in a major-league game, throwing a 105.1-mph sinker.

The Pirates got an up-close look at the St. Louis flamethrower Saturday afternoon, when he pitched 1 2/3 innings in the Cardinals’ 4-1 victory at PNC Park. Hicks, who skipped Double-A and Triple-A this season, touched triple digits in eight of his 16 pitches against the Pirates. He allowed one hit, a single to Francisco Cervelli in the eighth. Hicks threw 19 pitches, seven balls and 12 strikes, five of them called strikes.

Hicks, however, didn’t get any strikeouts.

“There’s nothing wrong with getting infatuated with seeing triple digits,” said Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison, who faced five pitches of 99 mph or faster before grounding out to second base to lead off the eighth inning. “I don’t want to say we get infatuated, but we always look and say, ‘That’s 101,’ even when Felipe (Vazquez) is throwing. It definitely raises an eyebrow.”

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It was the third time the Pirates faced Hicks this season, as he pitched 2/3 of an inning against them on April 27-28. But Hicks drew national attention this week against Philadelphia’s Odubel Herrera, throwing five pitches that all topped 100 mph, including the record-tying sinker.

“We follow the guy because we got to see him early,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. This guy has got a power arm. It’s high velocity.”

What impresses Hurdle is Hicks’ delivery time, which is under 1.2 seconds thanks to what Hurdle called a “modified leg kick.” Control is an issue for Hicks, who has more walks (16) than strikeouts (11) this season, along with four wild pitches and three hit batsmen.

Hicks forced five groundouts against the Pirates.

“It’s a special arm. There’s some skills there,” Hurdle said. “But it also shows the league’s ability to punch back. There’s a lot of strikeouts early. Now the strikeouts aren’t happening. The ball’s getting put into play. He’s trying to combat and punch back, as well, but it’s a gifted guy.”

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.