Hartman: Twins' Hicks will stay in center after his game-winner

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 16, 2014 - 12:15 AM

The 24-year-old has struggled at the plate, but maybe his walk-off single Thursday got him turned around.

While Aaron Hicks is hitting only .170 this season with one home run and eight RBI, the Twins center fielder — who drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning Thursday for a 4-3 victory against the Red Sox at Target Field — is going to stay in the lineup, according to manager Ron Gardenhire.

Gardenhire and Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony told Hicks he needed to prepare better for each game and study the opposing pitchers more, but after the game Gardenhire pointed out that while Hicks’ average has remained low, he still is doing a lot of good things for the ballclub, including his defensive work in center field and showing patience at the plate.

Hicks’ 19 walks are tied for third on the team, but his 15 hits are ninth overall. The team wants him to be more aggressive, as he was in the bottom of the 10th when he singled home Kurt Suzuki for the winning run.

“Maybe preparing is something I need to try to do more,” Hicks said after the game. “Try to be able to make my game better and have an edge on the game.

“I don’t like the way I’ve been playing so far. But it’s something that sometimes you’ve got to go through in order to be able to make that next step into becoming a better player.”

Hicks said he is working hard to improve his average.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the batting cage working with [hitting coach] Tom Brunansky,” he said. “And I think it’s starting to pay off.”

Waiting for talent

Hicks was the Twins’ first-round pick in the 2008 draft, a high school selection out of Long Beach, Calif., who was taken 14th overall. He hit .318 in 45 games with the Gulf Coast League Twins and in 2009, he hit .251 with a .353 on-base percentage in 67 games at Class A Beloit.

In 2009 and 2010, Baseball America named him the No. 1 prospect in the Twins organization. In 2012, Hicks had maybe his best season as a pro, hitting .286 with 13 home runs, 11 triples, 32 stolen bases, 100 runs scored and 61 RBI in 129 games at Class AA New Britain.

Following that season, Hicks was considered a key part of the Twins’ minor league system. Baseball America had him ranked as the team’s fifth-best prospect behind Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Oswaldo Arcia and Kyle Gibson.

In 2013, he became the Twins’ Opening Day center fielder, but so far his talent hasn’t shown in the majors. Through 109 games with the Twins over the past two seasons, Hicks is hitting .186 with only nine home runs, three triples, 14 doubles, 34 RBI and 46 runs scored in 110 games.

Still, the Twins believe the ability and talent Hicks has shown throughout his career are eventually going to emerge at Target Field, and Hicks has to hope his game-winning hit Thursday was the first step in that direction.

Counting on Turner

Cordarrelle Patterson, the great Vikings wide receiver who won the team’s Rookie of the Year award last season, said it’s going to be exciting to see how new offensive coordinator Norv Turner is going to distribute the ball.

“He’s going to help me, and I’m going to help him,” Patterson said.

“This offense is going to fit everyone, it’s going to get the ball to everyone. It’s a new offense, so I just have to learn the offense down pat, and once I get that done, it will be the same as last year. Of course, you have to get better every year.”

Asked during the draft last week if he recalled how he felt when the Vikings gave up a second-, fourth- and seventh-round choice to get the rights to draft him, Patterson said it was kind of a blur.

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