The road back to Chicago has been a long and winding one for Cubs reliever Rowan Wick. After getting back on the mound in a big-league game for the first time in nearly a year on Tuesday, his recovery is one of the more unusual ones you’ll hear about.
“It’s really good to be back here and feeling like I can contribute,” Wick said before Wednesday’s game. “Watching from a distance kind of stinks. It’s good to be back and see some faces.”
Wick entered this season as a high-leverage option in the Cubs’ bullpen, but after the intercostal/left oblique injury that put him on the injured list in September 2020 returned in spring training, his return was anything but guaranteed.
The intercostal muscle is in the rib cage and while it appeared the team had the issue under control entering the offseason, once the pain returned in the spring, pinpointing what the cause of the pain was became more difficult. especially with it affecting his entire left side.
After months of treatment and spending time not throwing, the Cubs’ right-hander finally caught a break. After trying various treatments, including dry needling and cup therapy, Wick’s pain finally subsided.
“It’s a rotating muscle, so I was using a lot,” he said. “I was feeling that all the way until early May. I didn’t even pick up a baseball until late May. So it was just having to battle that every time I tried to throw, it would pull on me and it was just not strong enough. I was able to put in a lot of work.
“After last year [with] two months in the season, missing that and then missing over four months this year was not where I wanted to be.”
Once the pain subsided, the road began for Wick’s return to the Majors and on Tuesday, the road was completed. Wick pitched a scoreless inning in Tuesday’s loss to the Brewers, making an appearance for the first time since Sept. 16, 2020.
“I think his resume and the way he looked [Tuesday], I would definitely insert him into the back end of the bullpen, for sure,” Ross said. “When you’re up and need a guy to come in and stop games, there’s definitely comfort in him pitching the ninth. .
“But trying to use some of these back end guys in moments where maybe it benefits us for a pocket in the order that we feel like sets them up well, so yeah, we’re trying to balance that. … I thought he looked really good. The fastball seemed extremely deceptive.”
The bullpen was the Cubs’ biggest strength before the trade deadline with Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel. But with Wick back in the mix late in games along with young arms Manny Rodriguez and Codi Heuer it still appears to be an area of strength.
The trio have electric stuff and seeing all three together and healthy will give the team something to build off of when looking at next year’s bullpen.
“Oh man. Those young arms out. Have you seen Manny?,” Wick said with a chuckle. “He’s electric, dude. You just get him more reps. They’re some good quality arms, for sure.”