Hicks returns to the mound, hits 100 miles per hour with six pitches in inning of work

Jordan Hicks Rob Rains

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – Jordan Hicks had one goal in his first appearance of the spring in the Cardinals game on Monday against the Astros.

He wanted to establish his fastball, and see if he could increase the velocity by a couple of miles per hour over what he had thrown in his last live batting practice session.

Consider the mission accomplished.

Among the 20 pitches Hicks threw in his one inning of relief, six were recorded at 100 miles per hour and seven more at 99.

“My kind of goal was to be around 97 to 100,” Hicks said. “I didn’t think I would kick (the adrenaline) in being out there again with the all the guys, the fans, being back on the diamond.

“Regardless of the velo I felt good and I didn’t feel like I was trying to do too much.”

Hicks struck out two, got a ground ball out and walked one in the 2-1 loss.

“I felt locked in, that was the kind of energy I want to have out there on the mound,” he said. “Recovery is an important part but I don’t feel like I was doing too much more in the stadium than I was in live BP, maybe one or two miles per hour more, which is kind of what I wanted.”

Hicks likely will pitch at least twice more in Florida, which he thinks will be enough time for him to be ready for opening day.

Other news and notes from Monday:

High: Getting Hicks on the mound in a game for the first time this spring.

Low: The Cardinals had only three hits in the game.

At the plate: The Cardinals had only one baserunner, when Paul DeJong was hit by a pitch, before DeJong and Juan Yepez hit back-to-back doubles in the fifth, producing their only run … Their only other hit was a single by minor-leaguer Noah Mendlinger … Tyler O’Neill struck out in all three of his at-bats and Tommy Edman also was 0-of-3, dropping his spring average to .063.

On the mound: Adam Wainwright worked five innings, allowing a pair of solo homers among four Houston hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out three … After Hicks’ inning, Ryan Helsley and Nick Wittgren each worked a scoreless inning, although Helsley had to work around a pair of singles.

Off the field: The Cardinals optioned pitchers Johan Oviedo, Junior Fernandez and Freddy Pacheco to the minor-league camp. They also will have to make another move to activate Albert Pujols to open a spot on the 40-man roster … In a B game against the Marlins, Lars Nootbaar, Alec Burleson and Luken Baker all homered.

Looking ahead: The Cardinals will close their facility to all major-league and minor-league players on Tuesday, giving them their only full day off of the spring. Manager Oli Marmol said he intended to spend the day on a boat.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

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For the latest news and features in St. Louis Sports check out STLSportsPage.com. Rob Rains, Editor.