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How Miguel Amaya played crucial role in Jordan Wicks’ MLB debut with Cubs

9 months agoAndy Martinez

Much was made of Tommy Hottovy’s mound visit in the 1st inning of Jordan Wicks’ big-league debut on Saturday and the effect it had on his outing.

But what hasn’t received as much notoriety was the crucial pregame work done by Wicks and his battery mate, fellow rookie Miguel Amaya.

“Miguel did an outstanding job of just making me feel as relaxed as possible and just reminding me that I don’t need to be anything other than myself,” Wicks said.

A major-league debut is unlike any other outing — especially for a starter. It can be tough to stay locked in given the added excitement and butterflies, especially during a pregame meeting or game-planning session.

That was part of the dilemma manager David Ross faced when picking the catcher for Saturday night at PNC Park. Ross could have gone with a veteran in Yan Gomes, who could have used his experiences and knowledge to ease the rookie. Or he could have gone with Amaya, who had caught Wicks at Double-A Tennessee this year and had some familiarity with him.

Ross liked Sunday’s matchup offensively for Gomes better — against lefty starter Bailey Falter — so that played into the equation, too. That, coupled with familiarity and the potential for this being the first of many battery pairings for Wicks and Amaya led Ross to choose the rookie backstop to help guide the lefty in his debut.

So, all day Saturday, Amaya tried to treat that day like any other in terms of preparation. Amaya knew when to give input but made sure to give Wicks space and soak in the lifelong memories that come with a major league debut.

“I let him be himself,” Amaya said. “It was his day and he had to enjoy it. He had to find that feeling on his own.”

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When the game started, Amaya tried to keep things as relaxed as possible — it was just another outing in Kodak, Tenn., or Birmingham, Ala. So as the game started, they went to the gameplan that they liked.

“The plan was to attack the hitters to see what their timing was like and then to adjust from there,” Amaya said.

The adjustments had to happen quickly. Three batters in, the Pirates had a 1-0 lead and runners on first and second. That’s what prompted Hottovy’s mound visit.

“The only thing that was said there was it being a time to refocus, take a deep breath and for him to focus on mixing the pitches like he had done this year, this season,” Amaya said.

So, Wicks and Amaya decided to change things up, implementing more of his mix of pitches, but relying more on his bread and butter (his changeup) and retired the next 15 batters he faced.

“The thing that was even better was just having that experience with him catching me in Double-A,” Wicks said. “Just helped with that familiarity and helped with the pitch calling of the entire situation. I thought he did just an outstanding job. That can’t be understated, his role in this entire thing.”

And it could be the first of a long battery line for the Chicago Cubs with two players who are big parts of the franchise’s future.

Except they’re not looking at it that way. They’re focused on just one game at a time. For Wicks that comes Friday in another big series for the Cubs, this one against the Reds.

“Shoot man, I hadn’t thought about anything long-term,” Wicks said. “I’m literally taking it as single day at a time as I can. Just trying to enjoy every day. The next day’s not guaranteed. Just trying to go out there and help us win ball games cause that’s what it’s all about, especially in this part of the season.

“We’re in a race. Every game matters. So, I gotta do my work, do my preparation to go out there and do my job for this team.”

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