KANSAS CITY, MO. – It might not look like it when he strikes out to end an inning, when he glares into space as he yanks the batting gloves from his hands and tosses them toward the dugout. But his first week in the majors, the great hitting drought of 2013, has been a lot of fun for Aaron Hicks.
“I’m definitely having a blast. It’s fun being up here,” said the rookie center fielder, whose career totals so far are only two singles in 30 at-bats and a batting average of .067. “Of course I want to contribute, help my team win, so that part’s been a little frustrating. But I’ve been through this before — eventually it’ll come around.”
It’s true that Hicks has started slowly several times before, most notably at Class A Beloit three years ago. But the Twins don’t particularly want to wait a month or more for the hits to start falling in. In hopes of helping him relax, manager Ron Gardenhire left Hicks out of the Twins’ lineup for the first time Tuesday, replacing him with a now-healthy-enough Darin Mastroianni atop the batting order.
“I told him, ‘You’re with me, son,’ ” Gardenhire said. “I said, ‘Be ready to come into the game.’ It’s not a day off — he’s just not starting.”
It’s all pretty new to Hicks. “I’ve never really sat and watched a game healthy,” he said. “But it’s probably a good idea to just relax, enjoy the atmosphere. See what happens. I’ll be cheering my teammates on.”
Just like they’ve been cheering for him. Mastroianni said he empathizes with Hicks’ plight, saying “When things are tough, every at-bat seems tough.” But “we’ve seen what [Hicks] can do; we know what a good hitter he is,” Mastroianni said. “All of a sudden, he’s going to have a week where he gets jammed and they fall in for him, and then we’ll say everything is hunky-dory.”
Hendriks on the spot
Thunderstorms are in the forecast here Wednesday night, which could disrupt Liam Hendriks’ second start of the season.
Exactly what he doesn’t need. His first start was stormy enough.
“His last outing was sketchy. He just didn’t do enough damage control,” General Manager Terry Ryan said of Baltimore’s 9-5 victory last Friday. Hendricks gave up eight hits, four runs and didn’t complete five innings, and “we need better than that,” Ryan said.
They might need it rather urgently, too, though Ryan denied that Hendriks’ job is at stake in Kauffman Stadium. But Scott Diamond, recovering from elbow surgery, is all but certain to make his 2013 debut on Friday or Saturday, and Pedro Hernandez was reasonably effective — three runs over five innings — in Sunday’s victory at Baltimore. The Twins must send someone down to make room for Diamond, and Ryan is clearly putting off any decision about who it will be.
Still, “I don’t think [Wednesday] is any more important than any other of his 30-some starts,” Ryan said. “We expect him to go out and give us a good opportunity to win the game, that’s all. … I don’t think I should put any more pressure on him.”
Road to recovery
This week could represent a step forward for the pitchers left behind in Fort Myers, Fla.
Raphael Perez will throw live batting practice on Thursday, Samuel Deduno on Friday and Rich Harden on Saturday. Nick Blackburn, recovering from wrist surgery, has begun playing catch. And catcher Drew Butera has reported to Fort Myers to begin rehabbing his broken hand.