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.

“I don’t remember that night,” he said. “I got the rookie of the year for the Minnesota Vikings, that’s a blessing and I thank God for that. It was a great feeling.

“It was great. I mean they believed in me a lot. I just have to try to make the most of it every chance I get.”

Jottings

• Ex-Twin David Ortiz went 8-for-14 against the Twins over three games this week for a .571 average, with four home runs and six RBI. Ortiz has hit in eight consecutive games, hitting .515 (17-for-33) with five home runs and eight RBI. The Red Sox press guide includes 12 pages on Ortiz, who signed with the club as a free agent in 2003 and is now drawing a salary of $15.5 million.

• The Twins won two out of three from the Tigers and the Red Sox, with Boston losing its first three-game series of the season. … Going into Thursday’s game, the Twins have averaged 24,478 per game at home to rank seventh in the league.

• Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, a big reason why Chicago eliminated the Wild from the second round of the playoffs in six games, has a 1.97 goals-against average in the playoffs and is tied with the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist with a .931 save percentage. … The Chicago Tribune reports that Blackhawks star Patrick Kane, who got the winning goal in overtime in Game 6, told Wild coach Mike Yeo in the traditional postgame handshake: “You guys have a hell of a team.”

• Aaron Hill, originally a walk-on for the Gophers, had more good qualities than just his football ability for the St. Louis Rams to sign the linebacker as an unrestricted free agent this week. Hill, an outstanding student, made the Big Ten All-Academic team from 2010 to 2013 and also was awarded the Butch Nash trophy because of his great character. … The Bears were impressed enough with the ability of former Gophers defensive back Brock Vereen that they gave up two fifth-round picks in 2014 and 2015 to get into the fourth round and draft him. Vereen was the 131st player taken in the draft.

• There were four Minnesota high school players selected in the NFL draft this year: Gophers defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman, who played at Minneapolis Washburn and went 37th overall to the Falcons; Billy Turner out of Mounds View, who was selected 67th by the Dolphins; Beau Allen out of Minnetonka, who was selected 224th by the Eagles; and Seantreal Henderson out of Cretin-Derham Hall, who went 237th to the Bills.

• The Gophers football staff is still recruiting. On campus for an unofficial visit this week was Chaska native Bronson Dovich, a highly recruited offensive tackle.

• Las Vegas sports books have Vikings first-round draft pick Teddy Bridgewater as the fourth-most likely draft pick to be named offensive rookie of the year.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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