FORT MYERS, FLA. – We probably haven’t seen the last of Aaron Hicks, but the Twins’ expectations have fallen so far for the 14th overall pick from 2008 that his future could end up as a fourth outfielder.
And that’s if he can work his way back to the majors.
Hicks, 25, will start the season at Class AAA Rochester after an unimpressive spring training during which he failed to be a threat at the plate, forgot how many outs there were in a game and missed a catchable fly ball in center.
How did the Twins and Hicks arrive at this point? Mistakes were made. On both sides. The Twins misevaluated his major league readiness and Hicks didn’t handle failure well and didn’t take full responsibility for his hand in his demise.
The 2012 winter meetings in Nashville buzzed when word of the Twins nearing a deal with Philadelphia for Ben Revere — one week after Denard Span was traded to Washington. Hicks was coming off a season at Class AA New Britain in which he batted. 286 with 13 homers, 61 RBI, 79 walks and 116 strikeouts. Not a bad season for Class AA, but not a standout year, either. Yet the Twins sent out signals that night that they felt Hicks was ready.
They were wrong.
Hicks did have a strong spring in 2013, including a three-homer game against the Phillies. But the regular season was a different story, as he batted .192 over 81 games, staying in the majors much longer than he deserved. His play screamed for a demotion, but the Twins kept him in the majors — save for a rehab stint in Rochester — until Aug. 1. They tried delivering a wakeup call, not calling Hicks up for September when the major league roster expanded.
When Hicks began to flounder that year, the Twins should have come up with alternatives, even if someone like Scott Podsednik had to delay retirement for a year.
The 2014 season came, and the Twins gave Hicks another chance. He didn’t get two months into the season before his inability to make contact lefthanded got to the point where he made the startling announcement that he was giving up switch hitting. Soon, he realized that it’s hard to do such a thing in the middle of the season, and switched back to switch hitting.
Hicks batted .215, and there was another attempted wakeup call, as the Twins left him at New Britain for 43 games following a rehab stint. He eventually reached Rochester in August, then the majors in September.
The Twins finally showed they have standards this spring … but so much damage has been done.
But Hicks bungled this too. As last season unfolded and the Twins pointed out his mistakes and then-manager Ron Gardenhire began limiting his time last season — shortly before Hicks landed on the DL and was left in New Britain — Hicks indicated to people in the clubhouse at times that he wasn’t being treated fairly.
There were moments where the club thought Hicks was starting to invest more in his career, taking extra batting practice and going over more video, but he wasn’t consistent.
Torii Hunter, in his return to the Twins, wanted to spend time with Hicks before camp this year in order to see where his head was at, and the two worked out together, golfed and ate meals together. Hunter was optimistic Hicks would have a strong camp. Didn’t happen.
When Hicks was asked Saturday how big of a setback getting cut was, he said: “I don’t want this to set me back because I don’t feel like it is. I feel like for me, it’s a chance for me to go to down to Triple-A and do what I need to do to get back to the big leagues.”
Hicks has worked out with Hunter. He has heard from Rod Carew, who has chewed him out more than once over the past couple years. He’s had a couple conversations with Dave Winfield. The Twins have tried to get Hicks’ attention more than once.
Nothing has worked. And Hicks might be out of chances. He needs a big-time turnaround. Even then, Lord Byron — megaprospect Byron Buxton — cometh.
“This will tell what kind of man Aaron Hicks is,’’ Hunter said Saturday.
There might not be enough time for Hicks to show that to the Twins.