With Hicks back, depth tested, Cardinals’ velocity and variety give veracity to being bullish on bullpen

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Cardinals pitcher Jordan Hicks stretches at spring training on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, in Jupiter, Fla. (Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com)

Derrick Goold

It was another eighth inning in another close game back in 2019, and Jordan Hicks raced up the bullpen’s mound to get ready for another save. That was when Hicks “let out a loud yell” and doubled over a nearby railing as if his hamstring flung apart or his ankle crunched, teammate Ryan Helsley recalled.

“My heart stopped,” bullpen coach Bryan Eversgerd said, shaking his head. “Oh god.”

Hicks flashed a grin at his stunned coach, got to his feet, warmed his heater, secured the save, and left Helsley, a rookie, astonished by how composed Hicks was to pull off a prank — and close a game.

With a handful of teammates grinning in the Zoom conference’s Brady Bunch-like boxes around him, Helsley described Hicks’ antics during the Cardinals’ recent online Winter Warm-Up. The group of relievers had admitted earlier that they could seek distractions in the early innings, that their isolation from the rest of the team was license for tomfoolery.

But, as rookie Kodi Whitley assured, “there comes a time when it becomes all business.” The call’s host, broadcaster Dan McLaughlin, asked them, OK, if that’s the case, who is the jokester they have to keep an eye on. At first, they balked at the question.

“If I had to keep my eye on someone,” veteran…

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