La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

A couple thoughts following another loss

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: May 26, 2014 - 7:44 PM

A couple thoughts on this Memorial Day:

THE MISHANDLING OF AARON HICKS:  The Twins selected Hicks with the 14th overall pick in the 2008 draft expecting him to be a five-tool force.  The key tool, hit, has been a problem. As a left-handed hitter, Hicks batted .310 in 2008 in rookie ball and followed that up by going .264, .248, .230 and .287 as he moved through the minors. The organization discussed ending Hicks' switch-hitting days as he came up through the system, but his .287 average in 2012 encouraged them to leave him alone.

Hicks entered Monday batting .187 this season - .263 rigththanded and .145 lefthanded. For his career, he's .227 as a righthanded hitter and .179 as a lefthanded hitter. He has not looked like a top prospect. Hicks has to take some of the blame - he needs to know who's pitch on the day of games. Then again, he's hasn't been placed in the best of situations.

The Twins promoted him from Class AA New Britain in 2013 after they traded Denard Span and Ben Revere during the offseason. Instead of breaking in at the bottom of the order, he was the leadoff hitter because of lack of options. Both this season and last season, he's earned trips to Class AAA Rochester but remains on the major league roster because there are no other options.

Now he's going to attempt to be a right-handed hitter only in the middle of a major league season. This should be happening in the minors - or in an offseason league. This is not similar to Boston's Shane Victorino, who gave up switch-hitting last season. He's an established player. Hicks is not.

``If we were in a perfect world right now, we’d be able to send him down to let him do this at the Triple-A level, but he’s our centerfielder,'' Gardenhire said. ``We need him out there. We don’t have a replacement right now.''

If Hicks had been in Rochester when he's deserved to be in Rochester, he might have figured out a way to hit righties and not have his cofidence shattered from batting on that side of the plate. For him to surrender the way he did on Monday should make everyone with the organization feel a little ashamed.

I remember the night before the Twins officially announced the Revere trade the winter meetings. Someone in the hotel lobby told me. ``The Twins believe Aaron Hicks is ready.''

It's the classic second guess but, boy, does that decision look like a bad one. Chip Scoggins will have more on this in tomorrow's dead-tree editions.

NO BALK CALLED: Twitterlings went after Hicks when he was picked off base in the fourth inning - but it was because of a blatant balk move by Texas righthander Nick Tepesch that wasn't called. The Twins were up in arms in their dugout.


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