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Stiff back keeps Hicks out of starting lineup

MINNEAPOLIS -- Center fielder Aaron Hicks was held out of the lineup against the Rangers on Thursday after being a late scratch on Wednesday with lower back stiffness.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said it was for precautionary reasons, as Hicks felt like he could play, but Gardenhire decided to start rookie Danny Santana instead.

"Hicks is better today and available," Gardenhire said. "He came in and told me he could play, but I was leery of starting him in case his back started to act up. So we'll start Santana out there."

Hicks said his back started to stiffen up on the lower left side while taking batting practice on Wednesday. He said he thinks all the extra work on hitting from the right side now that he dropped switch-hitting might've caused the back stiffness.

But Hicks said the anti-inflammatories he took on Wednesday helped and that he was available to pinch-hit, if needed.

"It's feeling a little bit better," Hicks said. "I'll be available. They gave me some medicine for the inflammation, and it's made it better."

With Hicks out, Santana made his fourth career start in center field. Gardenhire said the natural shortstop is still adjusting to playing center field but has done OK filling in for Hicks in center field.

"He's all right," Gardenhire said. "We all see he has plenty of range. But he has trouble with those rockets hit over his head. He'll have to adjust to that. But he covers left to right really well."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. Alex Smith is an associate reporter for
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