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Cardinals' Hicks goes on IL, then probably to minors

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The question of what to do with Jordan Hicks was answered in two-fold fashion Thursday.

After the Cardinals right-hander had undergone an ultrasound exam and after Hicks had emerged from a meeting involving president of baseball operations John Mozeliak and manager Oliver Marmol, Hicks announced — and the club soon confirmed — that he has a right forearm flexor strain.

“A little forearm tightness,” said Hicks.

That injury placed him on the 15-day injury list and, whenever Hicks comes off that list — which could be longer than 15 days — he is likely to be sent out on a minor league rehabilitation outing to try to work out his command and pace issues that have led to his 1-4 record.

“We’re not ultra concerned,” said Marmol, “but with his (injury) history, there’s no reason to push through it.” And Hicks also said he deemed the ailment a “minor thing.”

Marmol made it clear, though, that Hicks, once the forearm issue was determined, wouldn’t have made his next scheduled start here next Monday even if he had been “dealing” on Tuesday when he lost to Toronto 8-1.

Hicks said he had felt some soreness after his starts but that it had been reduced the closer he got to making his next one. “That’s why there hasn’t been really too much concern for me,” he said.

“But I felt kind of a ‘strain’ feel (after Tuesday). We’re just going to take a couple of days. Take a step back, let it get less aggravated and come back strong.”

Most of Hicks’ previous pitching injuries have revolved around the elbow and have limited him to just 18 big-league appearances in the past three years. “This probably is the least of all of them,” he said.

In Hicks’ place, right-hander Jake Woodford was recalled from Class AAA Memphis, a few days ahead of when he could have been brought back from an option. Woodford, who went to the bullpen Thursday night, had pitched in just two games for Memphis, giving up three earned runs in six innings.

The Cardinals also shuffled right-handed relievers. Junior Fernandez, who tossed two scoreless innings on Tuesday, was optioned back to Memphis and right-hander Kodi Whitley, impressive early in the season before encountering control problems, was recalled from Memphis.

The third roster move was that Yadier Molina, who had returned home to Puerto Rico to be with his son, who had surgery on his arm resulting from an injury sliding in a baseball game, was removed from the bereavement list. Ivan Herrera, who caught one inning on Tuesday, was returned to Memphis but not before he and Lars Nootbaar stood in to take swings at right-hander Jack Flaherty (bursitis) in an early afternoon 25-pitch session.

Flaherty is one of the other starters who is on the IL, along with Steven Matz, who has a left shoulder impingement.

Marmol said that Woodford wouldn’t necessarily be taking Hicks’ turn on Monday. He said that would depend on usage this weekend against Milwaukee but said that Monday’s pitcher might still be on the Memphis roster. That would suggest that left-hander Packy Naughton, who is eligible to come off option on Sunday, is the most likely choice after Woodford to face San Diego.

Marmol said that some innings in Triple-A would be “beneficial” to Hicks and couldn’t commit that Hicks would be a starter when he would return. And Hicks said he would do whatever the team needed.

“I’m not sure, yet,” said Marmol. "I can’t say, at the moment, that it won’t be as a starter. That’s what we need. Our hope is that he comes back throwing strikes and starts.”

Hicks has had trouble commanding his fastball, walking 20 in 28 2/3 innings, and with his pitching pace.

“You have to be able to throw strikes in this league,” said Marmol. “Regardless of how hard you throw, free passes are going to hurt you.”

Marmol, however, said he saw no need for an “overhaul” in the 25-year-old Hicks’ mechanics.

O’Neill awaits rehab

Marmol said he hoped that injured left fielder Tyler O’Neill (right shoulder impingement) would be healed enough that O’Neill could go down to the minors on a rehab sometime next week. O’Neill is hitting .195 with 42 strikeouts in 118 at-bats.

Marmol said the rehab could have the dual purposes of making sure his shoulder is all right and O'Neill being able to take a “mental break” in not having the pressures of an end result in every at-bat.

Gallegos slow tempo

According to Baseball Savant data, Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos has the major leagues’ slowest pitch tempo — median time a pitcher takes between pitches. Gallegos is at 27.0 on pitches that are taken and returned to the pitcher.

The Cardinals would like to see Dakota Hudson pick up the tempo of his pitches, especially with runners on base. 

Hudson’s pitch tempo with no one on base is 17.9, the seventh fastest of the 14 Cardinals pitchers tracked by the website. When a runner is on, Hudson is at 26.5. Marmol said that Hudson on Friday would be using the electronic PitchCom, which, in theory, expedites the time between pitches.

“When you’re a ground-ball guy and you’ve got guys standing behind you, keep them engaged,” Marmol said.

Marmol says he isn’t as frustrated by the deliberate nature of a relief pitcher because that pitcher may pitch only one inning. “With a starter, you’re setting the pace for the game. You’re setting the tempo for your defense," Marmol said. 

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