North Vancouver's Rowan Wick throws fire in MLB debut

Former catcher turned pitcher took a twisty path to Major Leagues

Rowan Wick has taken a twisty path to the Major Leagues, and the day of his big league debut was no different.

On Friday morning the North Vancouver native woke up at 4 a.m. and took four flights to get from Fresno all the way to San Diego to join the Padres for his first stint in the bigs. He reportedly arrived at Petco Park at around 6:45 p.m., and three hours later he was on the mound to throw eight pitches, all strikes, recording a clean inning – including his first MLB strikeout – and finish off a 7-0 win for the Padres over the Colorado Rockies.

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So how did that finish to a whirlwind day feel? 

“I’m kind of tired,” Wick told reporters after the game. “It still hasn’t settled in for me.”

It didn’t take long, however, for Wick to settle into the Padres bullpen pecking order. One day later he was back on the mound, pitching the eighth in a close game. He loaded the bases with a couple of hits and a walk but got out of the jam unscathed, using his mid-90s fastball and low-90s slider to strike out Trevor Story and then induce a couple of pop-outs.

It was a very nice start to a MLB career for Wick, made all the more impressive given the fact that he had never pitched a meaningful inning of baseball in his life until August of 2015.

The Carson Graham grad came up through the Highlands Little League system before moving on to the Vancouver Cannons of the BC Premier Baseball league and a couple of years of college ball in the United States where he earned a reputation as a big-time home run threat. The St. Louis Cardinals drafted him as a power-hitting catcher in 2012 and then moved him to the outfield in 2013. In 2014 he continued to rake, blasting 20 home runs with 60 runs batted in and a .383 on-base percentage in just 74 games at the single-A level.

But then the hits dried up, and in the middle of the 2015 season the Cardinals made the decision to turn the 6-3, 230-pounder into a hard-throwing relief pitcher. Wick wasn’t too thrilled with the idea.

“I wanted to hit,” Wick told the North Shore News last year while discussing his career arc. “Obviously no one is too pleased when someone tells you you’re not good enough at something, so I wasn’t too happy.”

He soon grew to appreciate the plan, however, when it became clear that pitching would be his chance to keep his baseball dreams alive.

He progressed quickly enough to earn a spot on Team Canada’s roster for the 2017 World Baseball Classic where he pitched in two of the team’s three games, suiting up alongside big leaguers like Freddie Freeman and Justin Morneau as well as former pitching stars Ryan Dempster and Eric Gagne.

The Cardinals, however, put him on waiver prior to this season and he was snatched up by the Padres. This year Wick showed well sharing time between AA and AAA, picking up 14 saves with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks in 54 innings while registering an earned-run average of 2.67 and a 1.28 WHIP. He was named to the AA Texas League South All-Star team this summer.

“To finally get here is super exciting,” Wick told reporters about his arrival in San Diego. “Once I got to Triple-A my confidence kind of went up a little bit,” he said, “And then I started to pitch better and better.”

Padres manager Andy Green certainly took note of Wick’s impressive debut.

“Rowan Wick looks like the next in line of a lot of really good arms we’ve brought up,” he said following Friday’s game.

The path has been a winding one for the 25-year-old, but it looks like he may now finally be ready to stick around for a while and perfect just one more path: the trip from the bullpen to the mound to throw fire at Major League batters.

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