MINNEAPOLIS -- John Hicks has gone from backup catcher to middle-of-the-order run producer for the Tigers while filling in for injured Jose Cabrera at first base. So manager Ron Gardenhire has been anticipating the question of what will happen with Hicks once Cabrera returns."I was waiting for that question," Gardenhire
MINNEAPOLIS -- John Hicks has gone from backup catcher to middle-of-the-order run producer for the Tigers while filling in for injured Jose Cabrera at first base. So manager Ron Gardenhire has been anticipating the question of what will happen with Hicks once Cabrera returns.
"I was waiting for that question," Gardenhire said.
That doesn't mean he had an ideal answer for it.
"I don't like to start thinking about it," Gardenhire said, "because there's no easy solution or answer. We're not going to put him in center field. It's going to go back to the way it was. He's going to be our backup catcher. We'll try to get him as many at-bats as we can when Miggy comes back.
"He's not going to be the first baseman; we all know that. Hicks is playing well. He's been great. But we know who our first baseman is here, so then I'm going to have to try to find at-bats for Hicksy somewhere along the road."
While the Tigers' offense has sputtered for most of the current road trip, Hicks' hitting has helped avoid what could have been a dire situation at first base when Cabrera suffered a biceps spasm, then a strained right hamstring earlier this month. Given regular at-bats for the first time in his big league career, Hicks entered Wednesday's series finale against the Twins batting .316 (24-for-76) with six doubles, three home runs, 13 RBIs and an .875 OPS in May.
Though the Tigers worked Hicks out as a corner outfielder briefly at Triple-A Toledo last season, that's no longer a consideration. With Cabrera expected to resume his everyday role at first base once he's healthy, and Victor Martinez entrenched at designated hitter, that leaves Gardenhire likely trying to find Hicks at-bats at his usual spot behind the plate, mixing in starts with James McCann.
"He's been a savior at first base for us, but ultimately he's going to go back to being the backup catcher," Gardenhire said. "We'll try to get him as many at-bats as we possibly can."
The good news for Gardenhire -- well, sort of -- is that it's not a decision he has to make right away. Though Cabrera swung away and looked good in early batting practice Tuesday, hitting home runs into the left- and right-field seats at Target Field, he has yet to test his hamstring running bases or fielding grounders at first base. The Tigers aren't going to bring him back from the 10-day DL until he shows he can do that comfortably without risking a re-injury that could cost him more time.
• Matthew Boyd, who left his start Tuesday night in the fifth inning with a left oblique strain, said he felt better Wednesday morning and was able to do his usual day-after-start routine. He's expected to make his next turn in the rotation early next week against the Angels at Comerica Park.
• Don't expect Gardenhire to try out the Rays' experiment of using a right-handed reliever in the first inning against the righty-hitting top of the Angels' order next week.
"I'm not trying to go there and get in-depth with something like that," Gardenhire said. "I don't know enough about it to say why they're doing it. There has to be a rhyme or reason."
• In case you were wondering from Gardenhire's postgame news conference Monday, he really does use "Stronger" from Kelly Clarkson as his ringtone. And no, it's not just for calls from general manager Al Avila.
"There are good words in that song," Gardenhire said, "and that's the truth."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.