Chicago -- For some reason, I got to the ballpark about five hours before game time. Even though MLB has done all it can to ruin Opening Day by playing regular season games on the other side of the world to pretend the season has officially started, I can't stay away from the ballpark.
Paul Molitor is already testing the basepaths, and Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey are walking toward the bullpen at U.S. Cellular Field.
Wrote in today's paper about all the ways in which this Twins team needs to improve, but this can't be overstated or repeated enough: Aaron Hicks is a key to this team playing respectable baseball in so many ways.
If Hicks plays to his capabilities, the Twins will have a leadoff hitter who can get on base, run and drive the ball, and a centerfielder who can hold down the position capably all season.
If Hicks fails again, the top of the lineup will be in shambles, in a lineup that will already have automatic outs at the bottom of the order when Pedro Florimon and Kurt Suzuki start.
If Hicks succeeds, the Twins will finally have one of the top prospects they're counting on for the long-term up and running. If he fails, the future will be a lot harder to see, and a lot harder to care about.
In 2012, Hicks had a .384 on-base percentage at Class AA. Last year, he had a .259 on-base percentage in the majors and a .317 on-base percentage in the minors. He's still a five-tool talent who should be a big-league regular, if not a standout, for years. If he turns into a bust, this season will be hard to watch and the Twins' outfield of the future will be in flux.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 12:15 with Mackey & Judd, and on WJON in St. Cloud tomorrow at 7:15. Those times are good for every weekday.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.