CLEVELAND – In the first few seconds after he hit Scott Kazmir’s fifth-inning fastball, Aaron Hicks wasn’t sure where the ball would end up. But he knows now: In his father’s display case.
Hicks drove the pitch an estimated 388 feet Saturday, dropping it a row or two deep in the left field bleachers for his first career home run. Given that he was hitting .115 at the time, the rookie took no chances, running at full speed even though he knew he hit it hard.
“It’s a high fence, so right out of the box, I still ran hard,” Hicks said after the Twins’ 7-3 loss. “When it went out — that’s when I knew it went out.”
An Indians representative retrieved the ball from the fan who caught it, and it was in Hicks’ locker after the game. It’s headed to Long Beach, Calif., where Hicks’ father, Joe, has created a display of some of his son’s trophies, baseballs, even a golf ball from one of his five holes-in-one.
Too bad nobody saves the ball from outfield assists, because Hicks is gathering plenty of them, too. For the second time on the road trip, he threw out a runner trying to stretch a single, this time catching Ezequiel Carrera. He also came close to catching Asdrubal Cabrera on a throw to the plate in the seventh inning, but that one slowed when it bounced off the mound.
“I like taking away base hits. They’re going to be aggressive, and when a [fielder is] going left to right, it’s harder for an outfielder to make that throw,” said Hicks, who with five assists is only one short of the six assists that Denard Span collected in center last season. “I’m sure they’re going to keep being aggressive.”
Hicks was aggressive, too, on a fly ball to the wall hit by Jason Kipnis. He and left fielder Josh Willingham arrived at the wall simultaneously, and Hicks said he momentarily was more focused on the possible collision with the wall or his teammate. He overran the ball, which bounced off his glove for a triple.
“I think Hammer called it right at the last second, Hicks tried to call it at the last second, and they kind of jumped over the top of each other,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Thome waits for a call
Plans are in place here to immortalize Jim Thome with a statue, in honor of the 13 seasons the slugger spent with the Indians. But Thome doesn’t want to give up the game yet.
Thome called Phillies manager Charlie Manuel late last month, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, in hopes of landing a job with another of his old teams.
“He still thinks he can play,” Manuel told the paper. “He misses the game. ... He’s kind of having a hard time adjusting.”
Gardenhire said he hasn’t communicated with the 42-year-old since near the end of spring training. But he’s not surprised that Thome, who hit 37 of his 612 home runs with the Twins in 2010 and 2011, is still working out and hoping for a call.
“He likes to play. He likes to be at the field, he enjoys being around the guys,” Gardenhire said.
Gardenhire said he wishes he had a roster spot to offer but added the nature of modern baseball and roster management makes it unlikely. “Baseball has changed so much, because of the pitching,” he said. “You used to have 10 [pitchers], then you had 11, now you have 12 pitches. That makes it tough to carry a guy like Jim.”
• Outfielder Byron Buxton, who batted .392 and reached base in every April game for Class A Cedar Rapids, was named the team’s minor league player of the month. Class A Fort Myers righthander D.J. Baxendale, who went 4-0 with a 1.84 ERA, is the pitcher of the month.
• The Twins came to Cleveland with a 10-inning scoreless streak by their bullpen, but relievers have given up five runs in seven innings in two games here.