“He gave me a lot of good feedback on ‘this is what to expect in pro ball,’ ‘this is how your stuff will play,’ ” Wicks said of Brennan, now an outfielder with the Guardians. “I was extremely excited for that friendship, and there couldn’t be a better guy.”
The pursuit of improvement continues for the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Wicks, who had relied more on an effective changeup and command rather than velocity.
Shortly after Wicks was promoted to Double-A Tennessee in mid July last year, he solicited advice from Cubs senior pitching coordinator Casey Jacobson regarding his need for breaking pitch with more velocity.
Jacobson suggested a cutter, but the process didn’t stop there.
Last winter, Wick sought fellow Arkansas native and 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee, whose cutter was his signature pitch during a 13-year career.
Lee watched one of Wicks’ bullpen sessions in the offseason and would exchange ideas on the pitch. Jacobson had a follow-up conversation with Wicks to reiterate salient points.
The cutter has helped Wicks induce early contact and lower exit velocities. Opponents hit just .202 through his first eight starts for Tennessee this season. He struck out 44 and walked 10 in 35.1 innings to go with a 2.55 ERA.
The development of a fourth pitch and his durability enhances Wicks’ chances of a promotion and perhaps push toward a major league callup in 2024.
“He takes his process seriously and does what he can to put himself in the best position to recover and perform,” said Jacobson, who also was prepared to have Wicks chat with former Cubs lefthander Jon Lester about his polished cutter.
“He’s a student of his process, too, and he makes sure he’s focusing on what works and what doesn’t and updates his routines accordingly. So probably a little bit of everything has given him the chance to be out there regularly.”