You had given up on Aaron Hicks. Admit it. When he was recalled in May, you yawned, mocked or sighed. Maybe all three. It was a Christian Ponder-like situation. This guy again! The optimism expressed from the Twins organization fell flat. It just wasn’t happening. Not for Aaron Hicks.
Hicks entered this season with a batting line of .201/.293/.313 in 538 plate appearances over two seasons. There was Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario to get excited about, Hicks was so 2013.
Thankfully, Hicks has spent this summer proving us wrong. After a decent May and June, the 25-year-old returned from the Disabled List on July 3 a new man. For the month, he hit .346/.424/.577. While that torrid pace hasn’t continued into August, Hicks has now shown he is a big leaguer and deserves the playing time once handed to him.
The switch hitting outfielder and I chatted about his breakout season last week.
DZ: You have playing pretty well lately, is this the most confident you’ve ever been at the big league level?
HICKS: Yeah, definitely. It’s hard to be confident when you are not having very much success.
DZ: What’s clicked for you do you think; what seems different this time?
HICKS: I think it’s mainly about that I am just confident enough to play and confident that I can play at this level. I think that’s been big for me ever since coming up from Triple A this year. Confidence has been key.
DZ: What do you do when things aren’t going well and you are going up and down (to minor leagues); how do you keep yourself from getting too down and being counter productive?
HICKS: I just try to become better. A better player. When you go down, that’s got to be your main focus…some things you are going to have to do to learn how to become a better player.
DZ: Have you worked with Torii Hunter much; how much of a help has he been to you?
HICKS: He’s been a big help, man. Just different stuff – playing the outfield, having a game approach and having a correct approach – what I want to do during that game.
DZ: You also have the young guys over here – Rosario, Sano and Buxton…Does it make you more comfortable playing around guys around your same age that you knew from the minors…?
HICKS: Yeah man, it’s a lot more fun. Especially when you played together at some point in the minor leagues. It definitely makes things a lot easier when they come up. You already know what each other is like and you can feed off each other.
DZ: What do you think the No. 1 thing is that you’ve learned from the last two years?
HICKS: The No. 1 thing? Pretty much that I can play at this level. That’s the most important thing.
DZ: How about switch hitting? You kind of toyed around with giving that up a couple of years ago. What made you stick with that?
HICKS: Rod Carew told me that I was being dumb (laughs). He pretty much said that being a switch hitter is rare. It’s a little bit easier because you don’t have to worry about the lefty-on-lefty match-ups and righty-on-righty match-ups and all the stuff that goes with it and always being able to have the advantage of being on the opposite side of the plate is big especially in this game.
DZ: I suppose Rod Carew is a pretty good guy to listen to.
HICKS: Yeah (laughs).
DZ: One last thing, I read that you wear No. 32 to honor Dave Winfield. You are probably too young remember him playing. What’s behind that..?
HICKS: He’s my dad’s favorite player. My dad’s favorite player is Dave Winfield. 31, when I was originally with the team, was taken by a pitcher, so I couldn’t wear 31 – my favorite number is 31. So 32 was there and my dad was telling me how Dave Winfield wore 32 when he was with the Twins, so if that number is available, why not get it?
DZ: Have you ever met (Winfield)?
HICKS: I’ve met him a lot actually through the last three years.