Chicago Cubs call up 2021 1st-round pick Jordan Wicks for his MLB debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates – Boston Herald
The Chicago Cubs envisioned a potentially fast track to the majors when they selected left-hander Jordan Wicks in the first round of the 2021 draft.
Armed with a wicked changeup, Wicks’ journey reached the big leagues Saturday night at PNC Park where he made his MLB debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Right-hander Javier Assad was pushed back one day and will start the series finale Sunday. Right-handed reliever Michael Fulmer was placed on the 15-day injured list with a right forearm strain, retroactive to Friday, as the corresponding move for Wicks.
Wicks became the fourth starter in Cubs history dating to 1901 with at least nine strikeouts in his MLB debut.
“It’s not surprising that he climbed pretty quickly,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said Saturday. “I just see a guy who’s a competitor and who’ll go out there and give you everything he’s got for as long as you leave him out there.
“What he does really well is he knows who he is and he’s willing to take information, he’s willing to listen to the coaches and the organization about things we want to help to make him better, but he also knows what his core is as as a pitcher. … He’s very pointed about, like, I know what I do well, I know what I need to work on, how can we piece that all together without getting caught up in trying to make all these drastic changes?’
Wicks, who will turn 24 on Friday, is the Cubs’ No. 8 prospect by Baseball America and No. 10 by MLB.com. The Cubs selected Wicks with the 21st pick out of Kansas State in 2021. He becomes the first player from the team’s 2021 draft class to reach the majors.
He joined the Cubs in the midst of a playoff chase, but they don’t want Wicks to try to do too much.
“Simplify it to its true core, execute each pitch, go out there with your best stuff and we’ll take you out when we take you out,” Hottovy said. “Don’t feel like I’ve got to go six innings, I’ve got to pitch deep in the game. No, we’ll figure out the rest of it. Just go out and compete. Have fun. Don’t try to do too much.”
Wicks posted a 3.82 ERA in seven starts with Triple-A Iowa after beginning the season at Double-A Tennessee, with whom he started 13 games and owned a 3.39 ERA.
A big-league opportunity for Wicks opened when the Cubs needed a starter because of their decision to move veteran lefty Drew Smyly back to the bullpen after a bad outing Tuesday in Detroit.
The Cubs hope Fulmer will only need a minimum stint on the 15-day IL, just as Justin Steele did with his forearm strain in June. However, Fulmer will get imaging on his forearm in the coming days to receive further clarity on the injury. He has been dealing with forearm discomfort for approximately four weeks, but it reached the point at which Fulmer wasn’t bouncing back well enough and needed extended rest to let it fully heal.
“We just felt like we hit a wall,” Hottovy said. “We needed to give it some time here. But for him, what he’s done, it’s again a testament of the work he’s put in this point. But now it’s again to turn back to, all right, who’s going to step up now, who’s going to have the opportunity to come in some of those same situations and keep us in ballgames, get out of big situations?”
Without Fulmer, Ross views it as all hands on deck. He specifically mentioned Daniel Palenica, José Cuas and Hayden Wesneski, the latter mainly against right-handers, as possible options for increased leverage spots as they look to fill the void of Fulmer’s absence in the late innings.
Fulmer filled a valuable role as bridge to the back-end trio of Julian Merryweather, Mark Leiter Jr. and Adbert Alzolay and taking high-leverage spots, especially when coming in to games with runners on base. Fulmer thrived in those moments with his 19 IRS% ranking better than league average. It can be an underappreciated role but one that plays a key cog in the bullpen’s effectiveness.
“We have to find somebody to pick up that slack in those moments and there’s somebody down there that are going to take that role and they’re going to grab it and run with it,” Ross said.
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