Jordan Hicks

Hicks' honest approach rewarded with extended run in Giants' win

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Trust, respect and honesty are the foundation of any good relationship. Jordan Hicks is learning that all three qualities are especially important for him to successfully transition to being a starting pitcher.

The reliever-turned-starter toed the rubber for the second time this season in the Giants' 3-2 walk-off win over the San Diego Padres in Friday's home opener at Oracle Park. Hicks (ND, 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 Ks) not only pitched well, but he recorded a new career high in innings after throwing five shutout frames in his San Francisco debut March 30.

Hicks pitched well in his first start of the season, but he was pulled before the sixth inning after throwing 81 pitches. It was clear to Giants manager Bob Melvin that the 27-year-old had more in the tank Friday, though.

"The decision last time was to let him go out for another inning, but I think where he was for his first start starting again, we cut him a little short, but we allowed him to go a little deeper in the game today," Melvin said postgame. "When you face the same guys a lot, you have to do some things differently, and he did. He really tuned it up. You saw some 98s, 99s later in the game when you were seeing some 92s, 93s earlier."

Hicks was pulled after five innings in his first start because he was honest with Melvin and the coaching staff about feeling tired, which helped the young flamethrower develop trust with his new manager. After the six strong innings Friday, Hicks told Melvin he had one more in him, a plea the manager knew was based in honesty.

"The way he went about it, he was honest with me after his first start that he got a little tired, and we took him out," Melvin said. "And when he came out after the sixth, he said, 'I feel great, as good as I've felt.' So I let him go back out."

"He was standing there like he was going to shake my hand, and I said 'I got another, I want to go out there' and he said 'OK,' Hicks said of his conversation with Melvin. "I felt like the pitch count was where it needed to be to stretch it out a little bit more and kind of go past that next threshold. I feel like my last two outings were around 75 pitches, so getting up to that 90 mark was good for getting past that threshold."

In a performance-based business such as professional sports, athletes are wired to do as much as they can as often as they can. That drive and hunger sometimes can be their own worst enemy.

Not for Hicks, who knows it's in his best interest to listen to his body and convey how he's feeling to the decision-makers that be.

"When it's about staying healthy and progressing the right way as a starter after not doing it for a while, I think it's pretty easy for me just being open and honest with the manager," Hicks said. "I think that's how you're going to get the best outcome, just being open and having that open conversation."

While pursuing his career-long dream of becoming a starter is enough motivation in and of itself, Hicks also can earn $2 million in performance bonuses in each season of the four-year, $44 million contract he signed this winter. It pays to do it the right way.

"He's really incentivized to do [this]," Melvin said. "This is what we really wanted to do, so I think that probably gave us a leg up in signing him because we're going to allow him to start."

While Hicks and the Giants are approaching his transition with caution, the team still is allowing him to work through the physical bumps and bruises that a starting pitcher might feel on the mound every fifth day. Hicks told reporters after the game that he felt soreness in both his legs during the second inning, but he stretched them out and felt good from there on out.

It's still early, but after two starts, the experiment is looking like it could be a major success for both Hicks and the Giants, who are mutually benefiting from an open, honest dialogue that will be important now and throughout the season.

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