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How the Yankees should handle the return of Aaron Hicks



Cindy: Brenda, I thought you were dead.
Brenda: Oh, I thought you were dead, too!

– "Scary Movie 4"

Let's face it: We all thought Aaron Hicks' 2019 baseball season was dead. Including Hicks. The center fielder's 2020 stood in jeopardy, moreover, as he chillaxed at his Arizona home and waited to see whether his ailing right elbow would require Tommy John surgery.

“Being told you might have to get Tommy John is where it's at, ”Hicks said Thursday at Yankee Stadium. “That's pretty much the low of the low. That's like the worst thing to hear. ”

Now, stunningly, comes the time to tell Hicks the best thing:

“ Suit up. ”

Absolutely, the Yankees should place the revived Hicks on their American League Championship Series roster. As I start him in Game 1

Saturday night, I would try to get him an at-bat, just to see what it looks like for a guy who hasn't faced an opposing pitcher since Aug. 3. Because ideally, you don't want him starting in center field for Game 2 and beyond.

The "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy doesn't fly flags forever. Rather, one must keep trying to get better, especially when the competition improves as well.

“The good thing is don't put himself in this position to make that decision,” Aaron Boone said of Hicks. “Obviously, as good a player as he is, that's exciting. So we'll have some tough decisions here over the next 24 hours. ”

Boone held his news conference after he and Yankees outfielders coach Reggie Willits worked out Hicks alone, hitting him fly balls and testing his throws to third base and home . Hicks looked capable enough, unleashing professional throws – he said that he has aired out the ball, as well – and took a perfectly normal-looking batting-practice round during the club's workout.

“BP and throwing went well today,” Hicks said. “Now it's just waiting to hear from up top to see what the next step is.”

Up top, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman put a placid face on a rather unusual story: Having been told to shut down his elbow for four weeks by Dodgers team physician Neal ElAttrache, Hicks decided to test the joint only a few days later while “messing around in the backyard with my buddies,” he explained. And just like that, after some five weeks of travails, he felt better, and he sent a video of his progress to Yankees physical therapist and assistant athletic trainer Michael Schuck.

“The original response was kind of like, 'OK, '”Hicks said, pronouncing the last word with the skepticism his Yankees superiors expressed. “'How would you get to this situation?' Kind of like what you guys are asking me now.”

“Everything is about his tolerance,” Cashman insisted. “The initial throwing program he was on, he wasn't tolerating. He started throwing behind the scenes without our knowledge and he called in and said, 'This feels good.' If that's the case, get him into Tampa. ''

That was the case, and now this is the case: Hicks can replace Cameron Maybin, Luke Voit or Tyler Wade on the roster – Voit, who didn't play in the Yankees' AL Division Series sweep of the Twins, seems like the best bet for exclusion – and once he's ready to start, Brett Gardner can slide over to left field, Giancarlo Stanton to designated hitter, Edwin Encarnacion to first base, DJ LeMahieu to third base and Gio Urshela to the bench. That looks like a superior unit, with Urshela entering late in the leads at the hot corner and LeMahieu relieving Encarnacion at first.

Yes, the Yankees totaled 23 runs in their three playoff games against the Twins. That does mean something.

“That certainly complicates things a little bit, because we've been very successful and the guys that we have are playing really well,” Boone said. “That certainly complicates it and the unknown because Aaron, he hasn't played games or anything like that. It's been a while. ”

That's why Hicks should take one game to ease back into the groove. Even these Yankees, adjusting on the fly for six-plus months and still going, should start in the shallow end rather than dive into the latest roster reconstruction. They should tread water for just a moment, though, before they continue toward their ultimate goal.


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