As far as big league debuts go, they don't come much more dominant than what we saw from Cubs left-hander Jordan Wicks on Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In five innings of work against, Wicks surrendered just one earned run, two hits and one walk, striking out an impressive 9 batters. I didn't think Wicks would have a final stat line like this after a shaky first inning. On just the second pitch he threw in the majors, Wicks was taken deep on a home run by Pirates leadoff hitter Ke'Bryan Hayes. A single by Bryan Reynolds and a walk to Andrew McCutchen followed as the beginning of the night looked grim for Wicks.
But a mound visit by Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy turned the tide, as Wicks proceeded to set down the next 15 batters, including five straight strikeouts at one point. Before the mound visit, Wicks seemed adamant on establishing his fastball, which tops out at 94 mph and is not the young rookie's best pitch. After Hottovy's words, Wicks began to primarily utilize his changeup to devastating effect. The Cubs offense did their part as well as they put 10 runs on the board to give Wicks his first major league win by a 10-6 final.
Cubs got composure, consistency from Jordan Wicks in his first start
This was an encouraging outing to say the least and one the Cubs very much needed. Drew Smyly's struggles put him back in the bullpen and Marcus Stroman will likely not pitch again this season, leaving the starting rotation short-handed. If Wicks can fill the fifth spot behind Justin Steele, Kyle Hendricks, Jameson Taillon and Javier Assad, the team will have something to work with down the stretch.
Most importantly in my opinion is the grit that Wicks showed on Saturday. It's no easy thing to make your big league debut in a rival ballpark while your team is in the middle of a playoff race. It had to be a horrible feeling when the second pitch he threw found the seats, but Wicks reminded me of Kyle Hendricks as he barely reacted to the homer. He didn't let the first three batters derail the evening. Instead he hunkered down, found his groove and cruised to the fifth inning to give the Cubs a chance to win the game.
You really can't ask for much more at this point as the Cubs are capping his innings at 5 for now to slowly build him up. I would assume Wicks stays in the rotation for the foreseeable future so hopefully there's more great pitching to come not only in September, but for years to come from the 23-year-old.