Jordan Hicks

Price believes Hicks is better equipped now for starter transition

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The Giants are relying on right-handed flamethrower Jordan Hicks to eat up innings as a mainstay in the starting rotation this season.

San Francisco signed Hicks to a four-year, $44 million contract this offseason with a plan of converting the longtime reliever into a starting pitcher. And all signs early on in spring training indicate the process is going smoothly.

In speaking to KNBR 680's "Murph & Markus" on Friday at Scottsdale Stadium, new Giants pitching coach Bryan Price was asked about Hicks' transition thus far and his expectations for the 27-year-old this season.

"I think from a velocity perspective -- and I'm not going to say he can't do it -- but to think he's going to sustain this 100 to 102 (mph) for six-innings-plus, that wouldn't be a goal for me," Price said. "I'd like to see him throw a lot of those power sinkers in the zone and get in some early-count groundball contact and some early outs so he's out in the game later."

Hicks primarily was used out of the bullpen across five full MLB seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals and Toronto Blue Jays, but did attempt to transition into a starter with the Cardinals during the 2022 season.

In eight starts, Hicks surrendered 16 earned runs in 26 1/3 innings while striking out 25 batters and walking 21. The experiment did not go the way Hicks nor the Cardinals had hoped, but Price is confident Hicks will have better success this time around.

"We're going to have to responsibly build him up and condition his arm, it's a different animal now," Price explained. "But he did it in the minor leagues, he started in the minor leagues and then the Cardinals had given him an opportunity to pitch out of their rotation a couple years ago and he got banged up a little bit through the process. So we think he's in a better position now to do this, he's hungry to do it. And now really it's a matter of him just getting acclimated to it.

"I think more mentally, it's more of a mental challenge because the body is going to take on more responsibility and you're going to have to stay really mentally sharp on your approach throughout the course of six and six-plus-inning outings."

With veteran pitchers Alex Cobb and newly acquired lefty Robbie Ray sidelined for most of the first half of the season, young arms like Hicks, Kyle Harrison, Keaton Winn and Tristan Beck will have a clear runway to a large role in the Giants' rotation.

And outside of staff ace Logan Webb, Hicks, ironically, has the most starting experience of the rotation's four other pitchers.

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