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LHP Jordan Wicks begins search for rotation spot


MESA, Ariz. — Chicago Cubs left-hander Jordan Wicks took advantage of his new manager seeing his rookie season in person.

Craig Counsell led the way on the penultimate day of Wicks’ worst start of the season, the day the Cubs needed to beat the Brewers to avoid elimination from postseason contention. Backed by six runs in the first inning at Milwaukee, Wicks allowed three runs in the first and second innings and was struck out after 1 2/3 innings. The rough outing came after six starts in which he allowed 11 runs for a 3.00 ERA.

Wicks and Counsell talked about the outing, giving the 24-year-old some insight into how the Brewers game was scheduled against him.

“When other teams try to attack me, their game plan is going to be relatively the same, and so it’s great to have a guy on my side that does that,” Wicks said Friday.

Wicks is part of the competition to open the season as the Cubs’ fifth starter. Starting Friday’s Cactus League opener, Wicks allowed one homer in two innings. He opened the Cubs’ 8-1 victory over the White Sox by striking out Kevin Pillar with a curveball homer. Christopher Morel’s two-run homer was part of a six-run first inning.

Counsell isn’t putting much stock in his spring performances, especially this early in camp. He projects the Cubs will need eight or nine pitchers to make multiple starts for the Cubs this season, highlighting the value of depth and contributions from beyond everyone else on the opening day roster.

“They’re just getting ready here and we’ve got to give them a chance to do that and we can’t expect perfection from the first moment here,” Counsell said.

“When you have that foundation of success for Jordan, it’s like, I could be good at what I’m doing here right now. Probably the most important thing for Jordan to start with is to be able to play my stuff here.”

The next step in Wicks’ maturation: Figuring out where he’ll get stuck in games if a shot isn’t effective and how to combat that. Counsell and the Cubs want Wicks to give him more options. This may mean relying on offspeed capabilities when no other field works.

One of the keys to finding herself in these stuck moments for Wicks is to take a deep breath and reset. This became the focus of his offseason.


“How do you reset when the game starts to pick up a little bit, when they start putting runners in and things like that? What mechanisms will you use?” Wicks said. “That’s something I’ve been working on in spring training, try a few things and go from there.”

Expect Wicks to incorporate his slider more this spring, ideally as another effective secondary option. His slider accounted for only 4% of the major league pitches he threw last season and was largely ineffective. But he sees the slider as a counterbalance to his elite changeup.

“Having another seed that people can plant in their minds and have something else to prepare for is huge,” Counsell said. “The hitters in this league are very good where there’s only one or two pitches you can get them to. You have to have multiple options to divert their attention.

Wicks was pleased with his slider to Dominic Fletcher in the second inning of the inning and executed it perfectly to take a 0-2 lead. Then, on the next inning against Rafael Ortega, Wicks threw a slider to center to lead off the count and stay in the zone.

“I can’t say I didn’t achieve what I wanted there, so I was really pleased with these,” Wicks said.

Wicks doesn’t need to throw a ton of strikeouts to be effective. He recorded three goals or fewer in five of his seven games for the Cubs last season. But Wicks knows how to pitch, and his fastball changeup combination is difficult for hitters to match.


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