MILWAUKEE — Getting back on the mound was a tedious process for Cubs right-hander Rowan Wick as he dealt with a serious rib muscle/left oblique injury that ended his 2020 season.
But after a few setbacks and an 11-month road to recovery, Wick has found himself right back where he was a year ago.
Wick was one of manager David Ross’ high-leverage options out of the bullpen last season, and he has returned to a similar role, given the turnover the Cubs had in their relief corps at the trade deadline.
‘‘Definitely some things that I’m doing with the trainers that make me feel a lot better than just kind of working my way through the rehab processes,’’ Wick said in a recent interview. ‘‘I’m starting to feel really good out there.’’
After not pitching in a major-league game for nearly a year, some rust was to be expected. But as Wick has gotten more appearances under his belt, he has started to look as good as he ever has with the Cubs.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case Friday. Wick yielded four runs, three hits and two walks while getting only two outs in the Brewers’ four-run eighth inning. The Cubs lost 8-5.
While he was rehabbing, Wick watched video of himself from before the injury. Now that he’s back, he’s not using the old version of himself as a reference point but a newer one. He thinks he has changed as a pitcher.
‘‘Watching video from the past is great, but you can’t really compare [it to now],’’ Wick said. ‘‘I’m changing so much, just in my delivery and my pitches. So I’m trying to just watch the most recent video. . . .
‘‘But I’m just focusing on the good, not getting worried about bad pitches. If I throw a ball, whatever. ‘On to the next [pitch]’ is the mentality.’’
Wick said he’s focusing on using his legs more in his delivery and is trying not to pull the ball toward the plate with his upper body. That gives him a cleaner, more efficient delivery. Like any pitcher, having more fluid mechanics will help him stay healthier in the long term.
Wick and right-hander Codi Heuer have been the guys Ross has turned to when the Cubs have a lead late. But it has been Wick who has served as the Cubs’ closer, at least in the short term.
‘‘Obviously, that’s the goal, right?’’ Wick said with a wry smile. ‘‘I’ve said it before: Whenever they want me to pitch, I’ll pitch. But that’s the role I want.’’
‘‘I think those things kind of play themselves out organically more than needing to name somebody,’’ Ross said. ‘‘As far as where we’re at, somebody’s got to go out there and take that ninth-inning job. If you had a closer in mind on our team right now, it’s probably Codi or Wick. I’m comfortable with either one of those guys in the ninth.’’
Wick also has shown an ability to throw multiple innings in his appearances, giving Ross some added versatility at the back end of the bullpen.
‘‘I think what I’m doing is pitching my best pitchers as long as I possibly can,’’ Ross said. ‘‘When we’re in a game when we’re winning or close to winning, I think a lot of that has to do with workload from previous games and whom you trust.
‘‘You talk about stuff and getting outs, that builds trust, right? And so whom do you trust at the moment?’’