The best advice Jordan Wicks received that led to his stellar MLB debut with Cubs
The worst part for Jordan Wicks was the waiting.
He was in a hotel room in Pittsburgh with nothing to do but watch video and wait, thinking about his soon-to-come MLB debut.
The left-handed pitching prospect was called up Saturday to make his first start in the big leagues but he actually found out he was getting promoted days ahead of time.
Wicks was set to start with Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday afternoon but was scratched ahead of the game.
“I was actually heading in to get stretched for my outing and they were like, ‘hey, you’re gonna be scratched today,'” Wicks said as he joined the Marquee Sports Network broadcast Sunday afternoon. “Which typically for me doesn’t make me very happy because I want to take the ball every fifth day when I can.
“They said, ‘we want to keep our options open.’ I understood that. And the next day, I come to the field and [Iowa manager] Marty Pevey called me into his office and was like, ‘hey, you’re gonna start in Pittsburgh this weekend. Son, you’re a big leaguer.’ Those are words you dream of hearing ever since you were a kid. So it’s just an unreal moment.”
As he prepared for the start mentally, Wicks received some advice from his brother-in-law, Evan Lee, who made his MLB debut as a left-handed pitcher with the Washington Nationals last season.
“I talked to him a lot actually before yesterday and he was like, ‘look, when you go out in that first inning, you’re gonna be a little amped up,'” Wicks said. “But he said, ‘once you come off the field for that first inning, everything’s gonna relax. It’s gonna go back to normal.’ Honestly, that’s pretty accurate of what happened.”
Wicks also received some advice from his pitching coach, Tommy Hottovy, who came out to the mound in the 1st inning.
Wicks gave up a homer to the first batter he faced and followed that by allowing a single and a walk. So Hottovy came out for a mound visit and Wicks responding by striking out the next 3 batters and actually retired the final 15 batters he faced on the evening.
So what did Hottovy say to help get Wicks locked in?
“He said, ‘it’s only up from here,'” Wicks joked. “Nah, I’m just kidding. He came out and he was like, ‘I’m coming out just to slow the pace and to tell you you’re just missing a little bit.’ That’s all it really was. And to just keep pounding [the zone]. And he said, ‘they’re gonna start swinging here. So just get back to what you do.'”
Wicks said he got locked in mentally by reminding himself that it was not the first home run he’s allowed in his career and it won’t be the last. So he just reset and got back to attacking the hitters.
As for the reception, he told Taylor McGregor that over 250 people reached out to him following the debut, including a particularly notable message from a former National League Rookie of the Year.
“Dontrelle Willis DM’d me. That was really cool,” Wicks said. “I had talked to him a little bit — I think we ran into each other at the Draft. It was awesome to get that encouragement from him. It was really cool, somebody I really looked up to.”
Catch the entire interview with Wicks during Sunday’s game in the video above. He touched on the origin of his changeup, how a football plays into his pregame routine and marveling at Cody Bellinger (“This guy is so good. That guy in unbelievable.”).