After ‘crazy’ injury, Rowan Wick takes his place in back end of Cubs bullpen
It may have seemed like an inconsequential moment.
It was the top of the 7th inning in a game the Cubs were trailing 6-2 at the end of a long day that included a doubleheader and an 89-minute rain delay in the nightcap.
But when Rowan Wick trotted out from under the left field bleachers at Wrigley Field to toss a scoreless 7th inning, it was the culmination of nearly a year of grueling work and starts and stops.
On the very same field almost exactly 11 months prior, Wick walked off with a “burning sensation” in his left side. At the time, he was one of the best relievers on a Cubs team that was fighting to hold on to the division title. He had 4 saves, 5 holds and a 3.12 ERA in 19 appearances, mostly in high-leverage situations.
Wick was lost for the rest of the 2020 campaign and had five months to regain health before pitchers and catchers reported to spring training. But he showed up in Arizona still feeling the effects of the oblique strain and was unable to really open it up on the mound.
“Every time I tried to throw, it would pull on me,” he said.
His recovery process was one step forward, one step back. At various points in the spring, the Cubs and Wick felt like they may have turned a corner only to have the injury pop back up again.
Until early May.
Wick and the Cubs aren’t sure exactly what the turning point was in his rehab, but suddenly he was showing up to the Arizona complex without any pain.
“I don’t know, it was crazy,” he said. “I had a really good week and after that, we gave it one more week to make sure I was feeling good. There was really nothing specific.
“It was a lot of stuff we were doing from rehab — needling, cupping, treatment. We were throwing everything at it. I just had a good week and started to throw and had no hiccups from there. I’ve felt awesome since.”
As a result of his injury, he had to add some more strength around the core/oblique area and tweak his mechanics a bit on the mound. He’s now pushing off more with his back leg and is optimistic there’s a silver lining to this whole ordeal.
“Going through that process kinda helped my pitches and hopefully I can be better than I was before,” he said.
Wick made 8 minor-league appearances on his rehab stint and rejoined the MLB team for Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader.
His scoreless 7th inning was also the first time he’s pitched in front of fans at Wrigley Field since late in the 2019 season.
“Dude, honestly, it felt like I didn’t even miss a beat,” Wick said. “It was so good to be out there.”
He’ll work out of the back end of the bullpen moving forward.
The Cubs don’t have any need to push him or overwork him at this point in the season but they’re also confident he can throw on back-to-back days if the situation calls for it.
“His resume and the way he looked last night would definitely insert him to the back end of the bullpen for sure,” David Ross said. “When you’re up, you need the guy to come in and stop games. There’s definitely comfort in him pitching the 9th with a lead.”
In 2019, Wick arrived on the scene as a real weapon out of the Cubs bullpen, sporting a 2.43 ERA, 2 saves, 5 holds and 35 strikeouts in 33.1 innings.
If he can return to that level of production and remain healthy down the stretch, that’s a surefire win for this organization going into the offseason.