ST. PETERSBURG — Aaron Hicks sat at home last year just watching baseball. After undergoing wrist surgery, Hicks was shut down in May and all he could do was watch his teammates play.
He didn’t like it.
“I had basically a year off, not playing baseball,” Hicks said. “I was at home watching baseball. When I came back, I don’t want to watch baseball anymore. I want to play it every single day. That’s what I want to do.”
Hicks may finally be returning to form after that year off. Monday night, Hicks had the go-ahead triple in the Yankees’ 4-2 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field.
“When he really hones it and gets those pitches out over the plate,” center fielder Aaron Judge said, “he does a lot of damage on them. It’s just him trusting his swing and doing what he does.”
After hitting .127/.253/.141 in 24 games in May, Hicks is hitting .321/.410/.434 with a .844 OPS in 16 games in June.
That comes from weeks of taking extra batting practice and working with hitting coach Dillon Lawson. They focused on getting Hicks to use the middle of the field to right field more and getting more of a launch angle on his hits.
It worked Tuesday night.
With one out and Josh Donaldson on first base, Hicks lifted a changeup from Rays’ reliever Jason Adam to the right-field wall, which got over the glove of Manuel Margot for the triple. Margot was injured on the play and Hicks said it was a mix of emotions. He needed a big hit like that, the Yankees had just blown a lead and now we’re back in control, but Margot was carted off the field too.
“It sucks to see a guy get hurt like that,” Hicks said. “I hope he’s Ok.”
Hicks then scored on Jose Trevino’s sacrifice fly to left field.
It has been a few games now where Hicks has started to look like the guy the Yankees signed to a seven-year, $70 million extension in the spring of 2019. He had a double and drove in three in the Yankees’ romp over the Blue Jays on Friday. He then had a single off Toronto’s tough closer Jordan Romano in the ninth inning Sunday as the Yankees rally fell short.
“I thought that the at-bat against Romano, who’s a really tough at-bat for a lefty, to give us a chance there in that game was really good. And then a really tough at-bat off of Adam there following JD [Monday night],” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s worked really hard to try and get himself going and he’s gotten some big hits for us here and certainly [Monday night] was huge.”
Hicks, who finished with two hits Tuesday, is battling back from a season-low .196 batting average on May 19. He’s slashing .237/.351/.295 with two homers and 15 RBI in 57 games overall right now.
He is still battling to find his spot in the outfield. Playing center almost exclusively for the previous four years, Hicks’ arm strength has not been quite what it used to be after 2019 Tommy John surgery.
Hicks has been playing mostly in left this season as Judge has become the everyday center fielder. With Giancarlo Stanton playing right at times, Hicks has been sharing time with Joey Gallo most of the season.
The consistent playing time he’s gotten this week is helping him get back.
“Being able to play every day helps a lot with getting more into rhythms with certain pitches, velocity, offspeed recognition,” Hicks said. “All that stuff goes into being able to have better results.”