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Hicks remains in Twins leadoff spot despite early struggles

  • Article by: LA VELLE E. NEAL III
  • Star Tribune
  • April 13, 2013 - 12:50 AM

While acknowledging that he doesn’t want to see outfielder Aaron Hicks “dig too deep of a hole,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire still penciled the rookie and his .057 batting average at the top of the lineup on Friday against the Mets.

The first 35 at-bats of Hicks’ major league career had mostly been poor, leading to concerns that a young player like Hicks could get in his own head and make things worse.

At this point, Gardenhire said he believes it would do more harm than good to move Hicks around in the batting order. Another factor: It’s not like a year ago, when Ben Revere could lead off when Denard Span wasn’t in the lineup. The Twins don’t have appealing leadoff options other than Hicks when Hicks is playing center.

“I won’t say there was no thought about it. We have kind of been mulling over everything,” Gardenhire said. “We want to do what’s best for our baseball team, and that would be for him to take off, get some hits and run with it.

“We want to protect him, too. We don’t want to get him mired in here too deep. It’s only 30-plus at-bats against some really good teams and the weather has not been conducive for anything. We’re going to give him a chance to right himself.”

Hicks said before Friday’s game that he’s trying not to press. He said he is going to continue to lead off games by working the count so his teammates can get an idea of what the opposing pitcher’s stuff is like that day. Gardenhire suggested that Hicks might have to go after fastballs earlier in the count and hit his way out of his slump.

“Right now I’m just trying to enjoy playing ball,” Hicks said. “It’s a long season. This isn’t going to be the only time I’m going to struggle. Just go about it every day as strong as I can and do what I can to help the team win.”

Gardenhire also spoke with Hicks about the play on Wednesday on which Hicks did not run hard on a pop-up that was dropped. “You have to go hard from the get-go,” Hicks said.

Field was ready

Twins head groundskeeper Larry DiVito and his staff put in extra shifts over the past two days to clear the field of snow and make it playable in time for Friday’s game.

“We were fortunate that [Thursday] night was just drizzle, then a little snow overnight and the snow stuck last night after we had to clear the outfield,” DiVito said. “Today is a pretty good day, for us overall.”

DiVito said they worked on the field until 11 p.m. Thursday and returned at 7 a.m. Friday. Most of the snow that fell over the last couple of days was melted by the underground heating system. The final three-fourths of an inch was knocked off by tractors that had PVC pipes attached to them.

DiVito usually heats the field to 62-64 degrees but turned the outfield up to 70 on Friday. And the field will remain heated throughout the weekend to make sure any snow that falls is melted.

Quite an effort.

“This was fun,” DiVito said. “This was a lot of work and the crew is tired, but this beats a concert any day. Concerts are the absolute worst thing that happens in here. It always will be every year, but it is part of the business.”

Etc.

• Righthander Cole De Vries, on the 15-day disabled list because of a flexor pronator strain, will try to play catch Saturday and see how his forearm feels.

• Righthander Tim Wood, on the 15-day DL because of a sore shoulder, pitched one inning in an extended spring training game Friday.

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