For as long and challenging of a road back it’s been for Cubs reliever Rowan Wick, it looked familiar Tuesday night.
“Honestly, it felt like I didn’t miss a beat,” Wick said. “It’s so good to be out there and see the fans, get to throw to [Cubs catcher Robinson] Chirinos. That was sweet.”
Wick pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning against the Brewers Tuesday night — his season debut and first appearance since Sept. 16, 2020.
Wick missed the first four months of this season due to a left oblique strain sustained last September. It lingered throughout the offseason and kept him sidelined throughout spring training.
The right-hander opened the season on the 10-day injured list but after a setback was transferred to the 60-day IL. The Cubs activated him Tuesday.
“I was feeling it all the way until early May,” Wick said. “I didn’t even pick up a baseball until late May.
“Every time I tried to throw, it would pull on me and it was just like, ‘It’s not strong enough.’”
Part of the issue was finding the root of the injury.
“It was all up and down my left side,” Wick said. “I had some issues.”
Wick spent the last few months rehabbing in Arizona, undergoing breathing exercises and needling and cupping treatments.
So what exactly was the turning point in his road back?
“It was crazy,” he said. “I had a really good week and then after that, we just gave it one more week to make sure I was feeling good.
“But there was really nothing specific. … I just had a good week and then started to throw and had no hiccups from there. I’ve felt awesome since.”
Wick said it was challenging being away from the Cubs for so long, but it also drove him in his recovery. He hopes he’s coming back to the club as an improved pitcher.
“I was looking at video and making sure that I was pushing with the back leg enough to not have to pull with the front [left] side,” he said. “I think that has made me better.
“I think going through that process helped my pitches and hopefully I can be better than I was before.”
An even better Wick could be huge for the Cubs bullpen. He was already one of their top high-leverage relief arms before the injury. In 51 appearances from 2019-20, he posted a 2.61 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings.
The Cubs bullpen also underwent a major makeover during Wick’s time on the IL. Closer Craig Kimbrel and setup men Andrew Chafin and Ryan Tepera were all traded before the deadline last month.
“Those guys are the best to do it,” Wick said. “I was just lucky to watch them go about their business last year and a little bit this spring.
“It's a mentality, man. Those guys are the best at it, clearly, so try to be like them.”