Twins' Hicks emerging as expected but sooner

Hicks, 23, will be the Twins’ Opening Day center fielder. His strong spring included a huge game March 7 during which he clubbed three home runs.

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Aaron Hicks, right, got a high-five from third base coach Joe Vavra after hitting a home run.

Photo: David Goldman, Associated Press

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Aaron Hicks, coming off his best year as a pro, already had big plans for this past offseason.

He went home to Long Beach, Calif., hired a personal trainer to add strength and visited with Hall of Famer Rod Carew to work on his swing.

“I’m just trying to make it to the next level and elevate my game,” Hicks said.

Then the Twins traded Denard Span and Ben Revere in a span of eight days starting in late November. Suddenly, there was an opening for Hicks on the big league roster.

“I was friends with those guys, and I was sad to see them go,” Hicks said, “but there’s an opportunity to win a job.”

Hicks, 23, will be the Twins’ Opening Day center fielder. His strong spring included a huge game March 7 during which he clubbed three home runs.

Proceed directly to the majors, sir.

Hicks, the Twins’ first-round draft pick in 2008, has been touted for years as the total package — a 6-2, 190-pounder who has speed, arm strength, defensive instincts, hitting ability and power. The question has always been how soon Hicks would reach the majors.

A year ago, the Twins wondered if Hicks could remain a switch-hitter. They worried about him cutting it at Class AA New Britain. Then he batted .286 at New Britain, and his 11 triples, 13 homers and 61 RBI were career highs. And he batted .287 as a lefthanded hitter.

“He could always run,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. “He could always steal a base. He could always throw. He could always field. He could always take good routes. … Now things are starting to catch up. … Almost all the growth is the natural progression. The bat is usually the last thing to come along.”

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