Hicks (elbow) concluded his rehab stint at the Arizona Fall League on Sunday and is expected to compete for a spot in the big-league rotation during spring training, Katie Woo of The Athletic reports.
Hicks had served as a starter for most of his minor-league career, but because of his blazing fastball to go along with lesser-developed secondary offerings, the Cardinals viewed him as a better fit out of the bullpen upon summoning him to the majors in 2018. However, after Hicks missed most of 2019 and 2020 while recovering from Tommy John surgery and then experienced inflammation in his elbow last spring that prevented him from pitching at the big-league level in 2021, the Cardinals may be rethinking his role. While Hicks' lack of innings over the last three seasons mean he'll almost certainly be under some sort of workload restriction if he indeed enters 2022 as a starter, the move out of the bullpen could actually help the 25-year-old from a durability standpoint. Without having to routinely pitch at extreme velocities in relief and adjusting his mechanics as he prepares for starting duty, Hicks could have a better chance at avoiding the recurring elbow problems that have stalled his career.