JUPITER, Fla. • There are 32 active pitchers in Cardinals camp, and in the first live batting practice sessions on Tuesday, Luke Voit had the unenviable assignment of facing the guy everyone wanted to see … except a batter.
There’s quite a lot of hype about Jordan Hicks, the triple-digit kid.
“I was like — ‘Dang!’” the Cardinals’ Voit said of the the fastballs he faced, both four-seamers and two-seamers. “I mean, it’s heavy, man. It gets on you. It’s got the spin rate, too, if you want that four seam. So I was impressed. There was a lot of hype about him and from what I heard from last season — and I was impressed, just like everybody else was. …
“Good stuff, man. A lot of potential. Super-heavy. Mid-to-upper 90s. I didn’t realize he had sink on it, too. He got me to roll over. I guess (there’s) more of a slurve I think. Slider. It still kind of pops, you pick it up, it kind of slows down a bit. Potentially still could be a good pitch. Just more of the older guys being able to pick it up a little bit and take advantage of it. But overall, the kid can definitely be an end-of-the-line, (big)-time reliever.”
Can Hicks’ stuff play in the bigs?
“Oh, for sure. It’s just more of him learning his spots,” Voit said. “He doesn’t have his command yet, but that’s something you teach yourself over time. It’s hard, not a lot of guys when they throw that hard know where it’s going. He’s still tough to hit. I was just more impressed with how much sink he had on his fastball. If he can have that with a fastball that can blow you away and (also one that) just gets ground balls, that’s kind of what Carlos (Martinez) is. It’s impressive.”
As Ben Frederickson chronicled this winter, first baseman Voit has been working out also at corner outfield spots.
Here in Jupiter, Voit is down to 245 pounds, looking slimmer and stronger. He said his swing is feeling good — he’s feeling quicker with his hands — and that his core gives him more stability in his legs (“Not being too top-heavy,” he said).
Voit spent some quality time in the days before camp with coach Willie McGee, who played a couple games in the outfield in the majors.
“In the outfield, I’m trying to get my footwork right,” said Voit, who is battling for a roster spot. “It’s more just trying to get reads off the bat, because that’s the best way in my opinion to get the best routes and get the different slices or cuts. Running down balls down the line, just kind of getting your right angles toward it, having to turn around because of the wind, stuff like that. It takes practice, I’ll have to keep working on it. Hopefully Mike (Matheny) will throw me out there a couple times.
“And I’ve got experience in the minors too. It’s not like I’m just coming out there like Matt (Adams) did last year. I’m not going to look like a loose cannon out there. I feel comfortable. I’m not 100 percent confident in it, but that comes with more reps and everything.”