NEW YORK -- About a month ago, Aaron Hicks was sitting on a sofa in his Paradise Valley, Ariz., home, hoping that a few weeks of prescribed rest would allow him to avoid Tommy John surgery. Believing that his season was almost certainly over, he wandered out to his backyard, where a friend was messing around in a batting cage.
“I was setting things up for him to hit and I was like, ‘Man, my arm kind of feels good right now,’” Hicks recalled on Thursday at Yankee Stadium, where he worked out in preparation for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday night. “I just started playing a little light catch. It actually started going well, no pain.”
Encouraged, Hicks tossed again the next day, documenting the workout and sending the video to assistant athletic trainer Michael Schuk. The response, as Hicks recalled, was a bemused, “OK -- what made you want to throw?”
“I wanted to know for sure where I was at,” Hicks said. “If [a UCL tear] was going to happen, I'd rather happen at home and then do surgery or whatever I need to do.”
While Hicks knew that he was disregarding the instructions of Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who examined Hicks in Los Angeles, the Yankees did not chastise their switch-hitting outfielder. Instead, head athletic trainer Steve Donohue conferred with general manager Brian Cashman, who invited Hicks to continue his workouts at the team’s complex in Tampa, Fla.
“I remember Stevie Donohue calling me and saying, ‘Hey, you know, he actually looks pretty good, and what do you want to do with this?’” Cashman said. “If he feels good and he's showing you that it looks good, then get him to Tampa. We'll get him going again.”
Now, as the club awaits the opening of the ALCS, Hicks is once again under consideration to appear on the roster. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that the decision will not be an easy one, given that adding Hicks could disrupt the current outfield alignment.
“We’ve been very successful and the guys that we have are playing really well,” Boone said. “That certainly complicates it, and there’s kind of the unknown because Aaron hasn't played in games or anything like that, and it's been a while. The good thing is that he is healthy and put himself in that conversation.”
Hicks has not played in a Major League game since Aug. 3, when he sustained a right flexor strain while making a throw, but he said that he has been hitting regularly from both sides of the plate and throwing to bases.
While in Tampa, Hicks said that he faced pitchers David Hale, Ben Heller and Jonathan Holder, among others. Cashman said that Hicks’ absence alone should not be an issue, pointing to similar layoffs by the Yanks’ Giancarlo Stanton and the Rays’ Yandy Diaz this year, and the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber in 2016.
“I talked to him two days ago and I said, ‘We're going run you through the car wash,’” Cashman said. “[Hicks needs] to mentally prepare for being healthy but not active, being healthy and a bench player, or being healthy and a starter. All three of those are possibilities.”
The Yankees are continuing to evaluate CC Sabathia as an option to appear on the ALCS roster. The 39-year-old played catch at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, one day after tossing from the bullpen mound. Boone said that Sabathia’s health seems to be encouraging.
“Just talking to him when he came in, he said that he felt good,” Boone said. “So far, it’s encouraging. I think completing the bounceback today and that he is sound, we'll have some more conversations about it and try and make a good decision one way or the other here over the next 24 hours.”
“His experience has been huge for us, and I want to see him pitch in the postseason,” Britton said. “I know that he’s our biggest fan if he’s not out there, but for us, I think it would be a good experience.”
Britton said that his right ankle felt fine on Thursday, three days after he rolled it while covering first base in the Yankees’ series-clinching Game 3 of the ALDS.
“If we had a game [Wednesday], I would have been fine, so the layoff has been good,” Britton said.
Britton, who tore his right Achilles in December 2017 while preparing for the upcoming season with the Orioles, said that the twinge he felt was likely related to that procedure.
“The doctor who had did my surgery told me until about two years out of surgery, you might feel some stuff in the ankle a little bit, so hopefully next year all this stuff will be behind me,” Britton said. “But at this stage, there are still some things after surgery … covering first, running full speed and hitting the bag at weird angles. That’s not stuff I do all the time.”
This date in Yankees history
Oct. 10, 1956: The Yankees’ Johnny Kucks permitted three hits in a 9-0 shutout victory over the Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series, giving the Yanks their 17th championship. Jackie Robinson struck out to end the game, marking both his final Major League at-bat and the last postseason game played at Ebbets Field.