MILWAUKEE — Getting back on the mound was a tedious process for right-hander Rowan Wick as he dealt with a serious intercostal/left oblique injury that ended his 2020 season. Despite a few setbacks and the 11-month road to recovery, Wick has found himself right back where he was a year ago.
The Cubs’ right-hander was one of manager David Ross’ high-leverage options in the bullpen last season and with much turnover since the trade deadline, he’s returned to a similar role.
“Definitely some things that I’m doing with the trainers that make me feel a lot better than just kind of working my way through the rehab processes,” Wick said in a recent interview. “I’m starting to feel really good out there.”
After not pitching in a big-league game for nearly a year, some rust was to be expected. But as he’s gotten more appearances under his belt, the 28-year-old reliever has started to look as good as he ever has in Chicago.
Wick has a 2.16 ERA in 14 games this season and has been piling up the strikeout numbers recently with 12 strikeouts over his last five appearances.
While he was rehabbing his injury, Wick watched video when he couldn’t be on the mound. Now that he’s back, while he’s still using video to help him, he’s not using the old Rowan as a reference. But the new Rowan as he feels he’s transformed as a pitcher.
“Watching video from the past is great, but you can’t really compare [it to now],” he said. “I’m changing so much. Just in my delivery and my pitches. So try to just watch the most recent video. Like how to get out. But just like just focusing on the good, not getting worried about bad pitches, if I throw a ball, whatever. On to the next is the mentality.”
Wick says he’s focusing on using his legs more in his delivery this season and is trying not to pull the ball towards the plate with his upper body, giving him a cleaner, more efficient delivery. Like any pitcher, having more fluid mechanics will help him stay healthier long term.
Not only has Wick been thrown back into the fire with the Cubs’ revamped, post-trade deadline bullpen in high leverage. Wick and right-hander Codi Heuer have been the guys Ross has turned to when the Cubs have a lead late. But it’s been Wick, who’s been given the keys, at least in the short term, to be the Cubs’ closer and has four saves since rejoining the team in August.
“Obviously, that’s the goal, right?,” Wick said with a wry smile. “I’ve said it before, whenever they want me to pitch, I’ll pitch. But that’s the role I want.”
“I think those things kind of play themselves out organically more than needing to name somebody,” the Cubs skipper said. “As far as where we’re at, somebody’s got to go out there and take that ninth-inning job. If you had a closure in mind on our team right now, it’s probably Codi [Heuer], or Wick, like those two guys. I’m comfortable with either one of those guys in the ninth.”
Wick has also shown the ability to throw multiple innings in his appearances – giving Ross some added versatility at the backend of the bullpen.
“I think what I’m doing is pitching my best pitchers as long as I possibly can,” Ross said. “When we’re in a game when we’re winning or close to winning, I think a lot of that has to do with workload from previous games and like, who do you trust? You talk about stuff and getting outs, that builds trust, right? And so who do you trust at the moment?”