FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Aaron Hicks left the Minnesota Twins with little to debate: He’s their starting center fielder and leadoff hitter.
“I think it’s a pretty simple decision,” manager Ron Gardenhire said after Sunday’s 14-5 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. “Hicks is going to be our center fielder. I don’t think it’s a shocking announcement by any means.”
Hicks, who played at Double-A New Britain last year, went 4 for 4 and scored three runs while raising his batting average to .350.
Gardenhire told reporters in his office before breaking the news to Hicks. When did the manager plan to tell the 23-year-old Hicks?
“Maybe on the airplane,” Gardenhire joked, referring to the flight home for opening day.
In reality, Gardenhire pulled Hicks aside a few minutes later and gave him the news.
“It feels great to be named center fielder,” said Hicks, a first-round draft choice in 2008.
Hicks outplayed Joe Benson and Darin Mastroianni for the job. Hicks said he received advice from players such as former Twins outfielder Denard Span.
“Denard told me to relax and be yourself,” he said.
Hicks, who hit .271 in five minor league seasons, so impressed Gardenhire that the manager envisions him as a No. 3 hitter in the future.
“I’m just thankful to be the leadoff hitter,” said Hicks, who was in his first big league camp.
Gardenhire praised Hicks for his patience at the plate.
“He showed that he has the approach to be a leadoff hitter,” teammate Justin Morneau said.
Joe Mauer had a three-run homer and six RBIs, and Morneau hit a two-run drive that caromed off a palm tree behind the right-field wall.
Mauer homered to center in a four-run first off Dave Bush and hit a three-run double in the fourth that chased Guillermo Moscoso, who also allowed Morneau’s homer during the seven-run inning.
“We know what they mean to our lineup,” Gardenhire said.
Luis Jimenez homered twice and drove in four runs for the Blue Jays.
Twins starter P.J. Walters gave up three runs and four hits in three innings.
NOTES: Bush entered 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA and allowed four runs, four hits and a walk in the first inning, then gave up a two-run homer in the second to Brian Dozier. … Twins RHP Tim Wood has a right shoulder strain, according to GM Terry Ryan. … Wilkin Ramirez, Brandon Boggs and Jeff Clement remain in contention for Minnesota’s final roster spot.
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