NY Yankees Aaron Hicks still the best center field option
Yankees’ Aaron Hicks batting in spring training
Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks took batting practice Friday in Clearwater.
Pete Caldera, NorthJersey.com
TAMPA, Fla. — Aaron Hicks has been on the Yankees’ opening team in four of the last six years.
But after that bright and upbeat day, Hicks’ seasons have, too often, taken detours to the injured list — a reality that makes it hard to count on his pinstripe presence.
Hicks, 32, is sensitive to all of this.
This spring, the batting center fielder is coming off of surgery to repair the torn tendon sheath in his left wrist, a condition that ended his season on May 13.
“I mean, you have surgery, and you come back and you have to recover,” Hicks said of his last injury cycle.
“There’s a lot of things in this game that I haven’t been able to do, and this is my time to do it,” Hicks said. “Finish the rest of my contract and get ready for a new one.
“That and achieving what I want out of this game and getting the most out of it.”
About this contract
Ahead of the 2019 season, Hicks agreed to a seven-year, $70 million extension, of which four years remain.
He won’t be a free agent until the 2026 season, at age 36, when he will likely be a corner fielder.
But right now, he’s the Yankees’ best option in center field.
Starling Marte signed as a free agent with the Mets, Bryan Reynolds is still with the Pirates.
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Estevan Florial is still a minor leaguer with an unfulfilled promise, and Brett Gardner remains unsigned.
With Hicks, any optimism he could deliver over a full season has been tempered by his injury history.
Since signing that extension, Hicks has reduced .223/.338/.410 in 145 games (including the shortened 2020 season) with 140 strikeouts in 498 strikeouts.
Still, it’s spring training, Hicks is healthy, and manager Aaron Boone is playing with rosters that have Hicks in the lead, or in the middle, or as a tough batter behind Aaron Judge’s big hitters. , Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Gallo.
Compared to their previous full season, 2019, the Yankees last year scored more than 200 fewer points.
If they’re healthy, “we can be one of the best offenses in the game,” Boone said. “That’s my expectation. I know this is their expectation.”
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And now the part of the story about the best form of my career.
Hicks normally comes in camping at 210-215 pounds.
“This year I’m at 200,” said Hicks, lighter than at any time since 2018.
“My best season was at 205, and throughout the season I’m going to get there eventually,” Hicks said. “But I just wanted to feel lighter. I have felt heavy for so long.
“I wanted to feel the same strength, but with less baggage to carry. »
The change is noticeable, but Hicks still had one hurdle to clear before coming to camp.
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Everything on the wrist
After completing rehab in December, Hicks tested his wrist during a 12-game streak in the Dominican Winter League.
“Probably my fourth game in the Dominican Republic is where I really didn’t worry about it,” Hicks said. “I just went there and I wasn’t afraid to (re-injure) again.
“That’s why I went to the winter ball. I wanted to lose that anxiety.”
Hicks made just 53 plate appearances, cut .265/.321/.408, with one home run and nine RBIs, and he even stole two bases.
He felt equally good on both sides of the plate. But the peace of mind was the biggest plus.
“Because I know what Tommy John surgery is, throwing a ball and not really wanting to throw hard,” Hicks said.
“Just going (to the Winter Ball) and losing that fear was the most important thing.”
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Pete Caldera is the author of Yankees beats for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to all Yankees analysis, news, transactions and more, please sign up today and download our app.