Hicks: 'I want to be the starting center fielder'
TAMPA, Fla. -- One spring after falling short in a battle for playing time with the eventual American League Rookie of the Year, Aaron Hicks has reported to camp intent upon holding off any challengers for a place in the Yankees' starting lineup.
"I want to be the starting center fielder for the Yankees," Hicks said on Friday. "I feel like that's a position that I can play every day and be successful and help this team win."
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Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has said that he envisions Hicks as the starter in center field, coming off a season in which the 28-year-old switch-hitter batted .266/.372/.475 in 88 games while setting career highs in runs (54), doubles (18), homers (15), RBIs (52) and walks (51).
He has a potential stumbling block in teammate Jacoby Ellsbury, who intends to make Hicks earn that title while vying to win his starting job back.
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"I think we saw Aaron Hicks take a giant leap forward last year," manager Aaron Boone said. "There's always going to be competition and guys pushing each other. We've got Jacoby Ellsbury on the roster, so there's going to be that competition and there's going to be that need to perform. I also feel very confident in where Aaron Hicks is, as an all-around player."
The Yankees held a similar competition in right field last season, of which Cashman has said that Hicks didn't necessarily lose as much as Aaron Judge was able to win it in the final weeks.
Disappointed, Hicks returned to a bench role and played regularly when Ellsbury was sidelined due to injury. Hicks' season was also interrupted; he missed two months with oblique strains, but was selected to start in center field for all 13 of the Yankees' postseason games.
"I feel like toward the end of that, we became stronger as a team from that loss [in the American League Championship Series]," Hicks said. "I feel like our team got stronger and that loss is going to make us that much better when we get back into the postseason."
Hoping to ward off future disabled list stints while increasing speed and power, Hicks hired a new trainer, Abdul Sillah, who has previously worked with tennis stars Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens. Hicks shared several workout videos on social media this winter, receiving plaudits for his fitness.
"I feel like he is the best of the best," Hicks said of Sillah. "He's really changed their career paths and started to build them in the right direction."
While he hopes the work will translate to the batter's box, Hicks said that he is "really excited" about being part of a potential defensive alignment in which he would be flanked by Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
"For me, it's kind of scary, because you've got two massive people to the left and the right of you," Hicks said. "It's going to be fun."