TORONTO -- After a pair of lengthy stints on the disabled list interrupted his breakout 2017 campaign, Aaron Hicks focused on his diet and his core exercises, aiming to avoid any similar future layoffs. One game into the new season, the switch-hitting outfielder is back on the shelf.The Yankees placed
TORONTO -- After a pair of lengthy stints on the disabled list interrupted his breakout 2017 campaign, Aaron Hicks focused on his diet and his core exercises, aiming to avoid any similar future layoffs. One game into the new season, the switch-hitting outfielder is back on the shelf.
The Yankees placed Hicks on the 10-day DL on Friday with a strained right intercostal muscle, and recalled outfielder Billy McKinney from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
McKinney immediately got to work, hitting a single in his first at-bat - a ground ball through the right side of the infield during the second inning.
Hicks went 2-for-4 in the Yankees' season-opening victory over the Blue Jays on Thursday at Rogers Centre, after which he mentioned some tightness in his right chest. An MRI revealed a Grade 1 strain.
"It's frustrating," Hicks said. "You spend the whole offseason trying to prevent stuff like this, and now it happens. I just want to play. I'm tired of spending time on the DL. I want to play baseball."
Hicks is expected to resume baseball activities after three days of rest, and he aims to return to the lineup in the minimum 10 days. He was on the DL twice last season with oblique strains, one on the left side and one on the right.
"We don't believe it's too serious, but we're taking some caution," manager Aaron Boone said. "Aaron actually thought maybe he was feeling ... he didn't have to go on the DL. We just thought it was the best thing for him and for us, trying to avoid a long-term situation."
Hicks' absence has shaken up the outfield depth chart. Brett Gardner moved from left field to center field for Friday's contest at Rogers Centre, with the 23-year-old McKinney making his Major League debut as New York's left fielder.
Boone said that it is possible Aaron Judge could see time in center field to spell Gardner, and Giancarlo Stanton remains an option in both left field and right field.
General manager Brian Cashman said that the team will accelerate the return of outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who has been gathering at-bats in Minor League games at the team's complex in Tampa, Fla.
Ellsbury missed most of Spring Training with a strained right oblique, and is eligible to be activated from the DL on April 5.
"In a perfect world, you want to give somebody 55 at-bats to finish them off," Cashman said. "We're not in a perfect world. This will necessitate us taking [Ellsbury] when he's physically ready, but maybe not totally finished off."
In the meantime, McKinney hopes to make the most of his opportunity, capitalizing on a pair of back-to-back strong Spring Training performances.
A former first-round pick of the Athletics, McKinney hit a combined .277/.338/.483 with 16 homers and 64 RBIs in 124 games for Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season.
In 22 Spring Training games, he tied for the Yankees' team lead with five home runs and 13 RBIs while batting .167/.340/.524.
"Even when he's not getting hits or not getting on base, it's just a quality at-bat," Boone said. "He runs the bases really well. He's a guy that I feel very comfortable throwing right into the lineup, knowing he's going to do the right things in the field."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.