Rowan Wick Believes The Best Is Yet To Come
ST. LOUIS—Former right fielder Rowan Wick, who delighted in showing off his right arm from the warning track, offered the best gauge by which to measure his conversion to pitcher.
"I wouldn’t want to face me,” said Wick, 24.
Wick thundered through short-season State College in 2014, when he hit a Spikes franchise-best 14 homers in just 119 at-bats.
Class A ball proved less kind, and offspeed pitches undid his progress. The Cardinals moved Wick to the mound in the second half of 2015 after he hit .198 at high Class A Palm Beach with 38 percent strikeouts.
So instead of feasting on fastballs, he tried feeding them as a reliever.
"For sure, I miss hitting,” said Wick, a lefthanded batter. "My hitting career was coming to an end. Maybe I didn’t see that at the time. I see it now. Pitching is where it’s going to take me. I didn’t make enough contact, that’s for sure.”
A native of Vancouver, B.C., Wick came the Cardinals in the ninth round of the 2012 draft out of Cypress (Calif.) JC. He had pitched a few innings as a sophomore, but he was a slugger.
Wick recalls how in college a radar gun behind third base clocked him at 97 mph from right field, but he never really thought about pitching. The Cardinals, emboldened by their success with converted relievers Jason Motte, Trevor Rosenthal and Sam Tuivailala, saw another position player who had petered out as a hitter—but had a power arm.
When the Cardinals finally put Wick on the mound, it was . . . "ugly,” he said.
He could throw hard, but he had to learn how pitch. Back in the Florida State League in 2016, this time as a pitcher, he recorded a 1.09 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 24.2 innings.
Wick’s fastball reaches the upper 90s. He plays off that with a 12-to-6 curveball that is slower than expected. It’s that blend that prompted the Cardinals to add him to the 40-man roster in November.
"I feel like I haven’t hit my peak yet,” Wick said. "I was learning to throw all year. I understand it now. I see what they meant.”
• Cuban speedster Randy Arozarena, who signed for $1.25 million in July, played well in center field for Navojoa of the Mexican Pacific League this winter. Through 51 games, the 21-year-old Havana native hit .289/.382/.347 with 16 steals.
• Stubby Clapp, a standout at Triple-A Memphis in the early 2000s, returned to the Cardinals organization as Redbirds manager. He worked as a hitting coach in the Blue Jays system in 2016.