Found January 26, 2013 on Fox Sports North:
MINNEAPOLIS When Aaron Hicks heard the news that Minnesota center fielder Denard Span had been traded to Washington, he was sad to see his friend and mentor leave the Twins organization. At the same time, he also saw an opportunity especially as fellow outfielder Ben Revere was traded not long after.As Minnesota dealt away its two center fielders this offseason to acquire pitching, the Twins did so fully knowing that the organization has perhaps more depth in the outfield than any other position. That includes the 23-year-old Hicks, the team's first-round pick back in 2008.This spring will be a big one for Hicks, who spent 2012 in Double-A New Britain and has yet to play any higher during his five years with the Twins' organization. But as Minnesota looks to fill the center field role, Hicks knows it's a job that could be his when the season starts."All the talk has been about a spot being open," Hicks said this weekend at TwinsFest. "For me, I'm going to try to go there and just work hard, try to get it. That's been my plan for a while, since I found out about the trades. That's what I'm trying to do."Minnesota's front office was pleased with the progress Hicks made in 2012 after a down year in 2011 with High-A Fort Myers. At New Britain, Hicks batted .286, hit a career-high 13 home runs and stole 32 bases also a career best. He continued to show patience at the plate, too, drawing 79 walks with an on-base percentage of .384.As one of the Twins' top prospects and the outfield prospect closest to major league readiness, Hicks is in a small group who will be vying for that center field spot. He'll be in competition with Darin Mastroianni, who got his feet wet with the Twins last year as a fourth outfielder, and Joe Benson, who made his MLB debut in 2011 but struggled with injuries in the minors in 2012. But Mastroianni has just five games of experience in center field, and Benson spent just two games in center field during his brief stint with the Twins in 2011.When camp opens in a few weeks, it will be the first time Hicks will enter spring training with a realistic shot to make the big league roster. No pressure, of course."I think one thing I know how to do is kind of make these guys relax a little and try to keep them as light as we possibly can," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Hicks. "There's a pressure out there that I can't control, and that's him trying to make this baseball team. I can control how he handles himself, and I can try to keep him as relaxed as I possibly can with the rest of our staff and try not to put too much pressure on him. He knows what's at stake. Now it's going to be how he handles it."Hicks will have a chance to make an impression on Gardenhire, who holds Hicks' fate in his hands. Making a good impression starts at TwinsFest this weekend, but it will continue down in Fort Myers in a few weeks."As far as I know, he's just a jokester in my mind. He's a guy that likes to have fun and likes his players," Hicks said.Part of making a good impression may mean Hicks has to laugh at all of Gardenhire's jokes, too."Even if I don't get them," Hicks said.If Hicks can make the Twins' roster, there's a chance he'd not only be the team's starting center fielder but also Minnesota's leadoff hitter. That title was held mostly by Span over the last several years. Hicks' patience at the plate makes him an ideal candidate for a leadoff hitter, a role he served for most of his minor league career.Among the plenty of question marks facing the Twins this spring, finding a solid leadoff hitter has to be high on the list."We just want to see their swings and we've got to figure that out," Gardenhire said of possible leadoff hitters. "It's no secret. We've got to find top-of-the-order guys and what's going to best work. We'll get down to spring training and see how they handle the bats and we'll go from there."Hicks knows he could gain some knowledge and experience by playing at Triple-A and facing a better caliber of pitching than he did at Double-A, but it's possible he may not need any more seasoning in the minors before he's major league ready. The Twins have promoted players from Double-A to the majors in recent years, including Chris Parmelee and Joe Benson late in the 2011 season.In just a few weeks, Hicks will try to follow in the footsteps of past Twins centerfielders who all passed down the tricks of the trade to the next guy. The late Kirby Puckett was a mentor to Torii Hunter, who became a mentor to Span, who in turn showed Hicks the ropes.Could Hicks be the next in line? He sure hopes so."Yeah, it excites me a lot. Just look at that lineup. Those guys have all been mentored by the guy in front of them," Hicks said. "Me being mentored by Denard Span definitely means I'm the next one in line. Again, I've still got to get to the big leagues. I've still got to put my place in as a big league center fielder." FollowTyler Mason onTwitter.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Hicks' spot in center there for the taking

MINNEAPOLIS When Aaron Hicks heard the news that Minnesota center fielder Denard Span had been traded to Washington, he was sad to see his friend and mentor leave the Twins organization. At the same time, he also saw an opportunity especially as fellow outfielder Ben Revere was traded not long after.As Minnesota dealt away its two center fielders this offseason to acquire pitching...

'Everyday Eddie' chosen for Twins HOF

MINNEAPOLIS The Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame has two new members. Former Twins closer Eddie Guardado and former Director of Public Relations Tom Mee will become the 25th and 26th members of the Twins' Hall of Fame. The duo will be inducted during a pregame ceremony on June 14 at Target Field. Guardado, better known as "Everyday Eddie," spent 17 seasons in the majors...

Fans flock to TwinsFest to see prospect Sano

MINNEAPOLIS Before hundreds of adoring fans took pictures of him, Twins minor leaguer Miguel Sano had to first take a picture of his own this weekend at TwinsFest. The 19-year-old Sano, widely regarded as the organization's top prospect, stopped Minnesota first baseman Justin Morneau and had someone snap a picture of the veteran slugger with the young third baseman on Sano...

Pavano ruptures spleen in snow-shoveling slip

Free-agent right-hander Carl Pavano doesn't figure to be signing with a new team anytime soon. Pavano, 37, recently suffered a ruptured spleen that will sideline him for 6 to 8 weeks, according to major-league sources. The injury occurred when he slipped and fell while shoveling snow on his driveway in Vermont, one source said. Pavano's agent, Dave Pepe, declined comment...

Mauer looks to catch more in 2013

The Minnesota Twins came up with a plan last season to keep Joe Mauer's bat in the lineup. They stopped using him almost exclusively at catcher and mixed in games at first base and designated hitter to reduce the wear and tear on his body. It worked like a charm. Mauer played in a career-high 147 games and returned to form as one of the best hitters in the American League after...

Morneau worried about winning, not contract

MINNEAPOLIS As he endured the effects and setbacks from his concussion, there were times when retirement crept into Justin Morneaus mind. The Minnesota Twins first baseman was injured midway through the 2010 season and missed the rest of the year. He wasnt the same player in 2011 and again struggled to stay healthy, playing in just 69 games. Last season was a different story, as...

Twins' Morneau Healthy But Cautiously Optimistic

It is TwinsFest weekend at the old Metrodome, where fans get the chance to see and buy all sorts of memorabilia, test their baseball skills, and actually meet some of their on-field heroes.  Approximately 60 former and current Twins are scheduled to appear during the three-day gathering.  Justin Morneau is there hoping to be looked upon as a current and future Twins star...

Joe Mauer Reads the Morning Traffic

Video: Crash on I694 eastbound

Free Agent Pitcher Carl Pavano Ruptured His Spleen Shoveling Snow

I don’t have $10 million, but I have enough money to pay the kid next door to shovel my driveway. I suggest going forward Pavano has someone doing the same thing for him. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports the free agent pitcher suffered a ruptured spleen when he slipped and fell while shoveling snow on his driveway in Vermont. He is going to be out 6-8 weeks and that will probably...

Carl Pavano reportedly ruptured his spleen while shoveling snow

Apparently it doesn’t even have to be baseball season for MLB players to keep piling up the bizarre injuries. Free agent starting pitcher Carl Pavano is the latest victim, and his injury is fairly serious. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the 37-year-old right-hander recently suffered an injury while shoveling snow outside of his home in Vermont. Pavano reportedly slipped...
MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.