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Jordan Hicks leaves the field with trainer

Cardinals relief pitcher Jordan Hicks (left) leaves the game after suffering an elbow injury in the ninth inning on Saturday, June 22, 2019, against the Los Angeles Angels at Busch Stadium. Hicks is set for season-ending Tommy John surgery. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

The first-day report on Cardinals closer’s Jordan Hicks’ injury was that it was a cramp. Or tendinitis in the triceps. Hicks had a feeling it was something more.

Forty hours or so after the hardest recorded thrower in major-league history hurt himself throwing a pitch in the ninth inning on Saturday, the harsh diagnosis, via an MRI, was a torn ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow. This injury usually leads to Tommy John surgery. This one is no exception.

We won’t see Jordan Hicks pitch until sometime next spring or early summer. He will have surgery on Wednesday, to be performed here by Dr. George Paletta.

“I wasn’t surprised, no,” Hicks said Tuesday afternoon. “It just felt different.”

He said he had felt that something different in the last four pitches he threw to the Los Angeles Angels’ David Fletcher, whom he struck out before coming out.

“I just wanted to get through that guy,” said Hicks, 22.

After that game, manager Mike Shildt said he had been told Hicks had passed all the early tests but Hicks said, “The tests were probably negative because my adrenaline was pretty high.”

But, on Sunday, a MRI was scheduled for Monday and Hicks said, “I knew that would show the true results.”

Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said the team was thinking positively at first.

“In fairness on this, we were overly optimistic and then the dark clouds moved in,” he said. “I would think, for the most part, we try to be as transparent and honest on these things but, clearly, on this one, we were wrong. It’s very disappointing. He certainly will be missed.”

He said it was tough news.

“I learned of this yesterday and for a few hours, I wasn’t sharing with anybody. Ultimately, I had to understand what was next,” Molzeiak said.

“No one’s having a pity party for us, other than ourselves. Our competition isn’t overly concerned how we’re thinking about this. But, you’re turning the page. You’ve got to go.”

Shildt added, “It’s discouraging to see him come this far and have a setback. But he’ll be better for it, ultimately. Maybe he comes back throwing 108” mph.

Mozeliak said he had talked to Shildt and their consensus was that they were comfortable with former starter Carlos Martinez as their next closer. Martinez was five for five in save opportunities in September and is two for three this year after overcoming a right shoulder cuff strain.

“(Martinez) is built for it,” Shildt said, “not only for his competitive spirit and his desire to seek big moments but his ability to execute a lot of ‘plus’ pitches.”

Paletta had diagnosed the tear Monday but the club sent the findings off for second and third opinions, which confirmed Paletta’s findings.

“I’ve talked lot of guys about (the surgery),” Hicks said, “and they said pretty much the same thing, that it’s going to be a grind and it’s going to be about how much effort you put into it.

“I don’t know what it stems from. A lot of guys have gotten Tommy John (surgery) that probably throw 90. There’s a lot of guys who get it when they throw 100. That’s how I pitch. Whatever comes with that, comes with it. I think Tommy John (surgery) is not about how hard you throw, it’s about how many times you throw. If it happens, it happens. If you go 15 years, without it happening, then good for you.”

He was philosophical.

“If you’re going to pitch in this game,” he said, “you’re going to have an injury or two at some point.”

Whatever other treatment alternatives there were for Hicks didn’t appeal to him.

“Whenever I saw the MRI, my mind was set on just getting the surgery — getting the full repair — and coming back healthy,” he said.

The benchmark for a pitcher to come back from the ligament transplant surgery is about a year, although Mozeliak is optimistic Hicks will be back sooner.

“Given the fact he’s not a starter should enable him to come back a quicker rate,” he said.

REYES OUT 2-3 STARTSWhile Hicks will have a lengthy absence, righthander Alex Reyes will miss two or three scheduled starts for Class AAA Memphis, Mozeliak said, because of a pectoral strain he suffered Sunday.

“We’re not overly concerned,” Mozeliak said. “But any time you’re not pitching, it’s not good.”

Reyes has had other injuries in the shoulder area and, Mozeliak, when asked about mechanics or training adjustment for Reyes, said, “We all have to look at that. If I was the player, I’d interested in what that might look like.”

Treatment will continue at Memphis.

PISCOTTY RETURNSOakland outfielder Stephen Piscotty, coming back for the first time since he was traded by the Cardinals to his native Bay Area after the 2017 season, praised the Cardinals for allowing him to be close to his mother, Gretchen, as she fought a valiant, but losing, battle with ALS last year.

“That trade meant the world,” Piscotty said. “I couldn’t imagine being 2,000 miles away from that. I felt the trade . . . hopefully sets a precedent. You don’t hope for things to happen, but if they do, maybe teams weigh that into consideration. I felt incredibly grateful to both organizations.”

Piscotty received a standing ovation from the Busch Stadium crowd before his first at-bat, which ended on a fly to right. He later had an RBI single and scored in the Athletics’ 7-3 victory.

COMING BACK UPThe Cardinals optioned lefthander Genesis Cabrera to Class AAA Memphis Tuesday and recalled from Memphis righthanded starter Daniel Ponce de Leon and righthanded reliever Dominic Leone. Both will be in the bullpen for now. But Ponce de Leon, who has had three good starts this season, could move back into the rotation. Leon threw two scoreless innings Tuesday, with three strikeouts.

Ryan Helsley and Mike Mayers, both rehabbing from shoulder ailments, are set to throw an inning each Wednesday at Memphis.

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Rick Hummel is a Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.