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May 14, 2013

What You Need to Know

A Good Hick-Up

by Daniel Rathman


The Monday Takeaway
When the Twins decided to break camp with Aaron Hicks as their everyday center fielder, prospect fiends, including Jason Parks, cautioned that the 23-year-old might not yet be ready for the challenges he would soon face. Parks, who ranked Hicks as the organization’s third-best prospect, praised his tools and on-base skills, but wrote, “a stop in Triple-A would be beneficial.”

Hicks earned the Opening Day gig by going 27-for-73 (.370/.407/.644) in Grapefruit League play, where he showed off both his power (11 extra-base hits, four home runs) and speed (3-for-3 on stolen-base tries). Both tools earned a 6 grade from Parks, to go with Hicks’ excellent arm, but big-league pitchers immediately exposed his unpolished approach, leaving the 2008 first-rounder with scant opportunities to display them.

As hot as Hicks was in sunny Fort Myers, his bat promptly went ice cold with the move to frosty Minnesota, and he began his major-league career in a 2-for-43 slump. That ugly line, compiled over 10 games, was augmented by 20 strikeouts and a failed steal attempt, and some writers speculated that Hicks was staving off a demotion only because of the dearth of passable internal replacements.

Things didn’t get much better over the next month, and Hicks entered Monday’s series opener against the White Sox with a .137/.239/.216 triple-slash line. His 455 OPS was the second-worst among all regulars, with only Chicago’s Jeff Keppinger coming in lower on the scale of offensive futility, and after beginning the season atop manager Ron Gardenhire’s batting order, Hicks was mired in the eight-hole, from which he had gone only 10-for-52 in 17 contests.

But, at least for one night at Target Field, all of that changed.

Hicks flied out in the second inning but could do no wrong the rest of the evening. He led off the home half of the fourth by clobbering a 424-foot shot to dead-center field, and, two innings later, he added another solo homer, this time to left-center. The long balls marked Hicks’ first career two-homer game and tripled his home-run tally for the season. And, in case that’s not impressive enough, try this on for size: Monday’s 2-for-3 effort wasn’t merely Hicks’ first two-homer contest; it was also the first multi-hit game of his young career.

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