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Hicks (TJ) eyes rare feat, Yankees' opener

OF feeling good during workouts; Montgomery throws sim game
@BryanHoch
July 5, 2020

NEW YORK -- Aaron Hicks may accomplish the rare feat of returning from Tommy John surgery without missing a regular-season game, as Yankees right-hander Gerrit Cole joked this week. That improbable scenario remains in play for the switch-hitting outfielder, who has hit all the necessary checkpoints while recovering from the

NEW YORK -- Aaron Hicks may accomplish the rare feat of returning from Tommy John surgery without missing a regular-season game, as Yankees right-hander Gerrit Cole joked this week. That improbable scenario remains in play for the switch-hitting outfielder, who has hit all the necessary checkpoints while recovering from the procedure.

“I feel good. I feel like my hitting has been going well, my throwing is going well,” Hicks said on Saturday. “Every day, I get stronger and stronger. Obviously, I have days I don't feel great, but overall, the process has been really good and really quick. I've been throwing longer and throwing the ball a little harder more consistently as my progression has been going on. I've been able to lift heavier weights. Everything's just been going really well.”

Hicks underwent Tommy John surgery last Oct. 30 following the Bombers’ elimination in the American League Championship Series, with an estimated big league return date in June or July. That places him on track to participate in an outfield that could feature Brett Gardner, Hicks and Aaron Judge from left field to right.

To date, according to to Jon Roegele’s Tommy John surgery database, the only player to return to Major League action without missing a single game following Tommy John surgery is infielder Tony Womack, who underwent the procedure on Oct. 6, 2003. Womack was at second base for the Cardinals on Opening Day 2004.

Hicks appears to be on a similar timeline as former Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius, who underwent the procedure on Oct. 17, 2018, and returned to the Bombers’ lineup last June 7.

While Hicks said that he would like to add velocity to his throws during the three-week Summer Camp, he expects to be ready for the Yankees’ season opener on July 23 or 24.

“From what I hear, it takes a while to be completely 100 percent, but I feel really good right now,” Hicks said. “I feel ready right now to be able to compete and be able to consistently be out there in the outfield, to play good defense and try to help my team win.”

Back on the bump
When Spring Training was halted in March, Jordan Montgomery wrestled with the decision of whether to stay with his teammates at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., or to drive to his home in Sumter, S.C. The left-hander opted to leave Tampa, and he kept sharp by playing frequent catch with Twins Minor League right-hander Charlie Barnes.

After missing most of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Montgomery seemed to have the inside track for a rotation spot this spring. The season delay prolonged his wait to take the ball consistently at the big league level once more, and Montgomery said that he had no hesitation about returning to play once the 2020 season was announced.

“It was a no-doubter,” said Montgomery, who threw a simulated game on Saturday. “I was going to play, since I haven't pitched in two years. I decided to get out there, and I think everybody feels the same way on the team; we're too good to waste a year. I think we have a real shot.”

Montgomery ran sprints in the Yankee Stadium outfield while wearing a mask, which seems to have been one of the easier adjustments for players so far.

“I think the hardest rule is no spitting; it's something I do and don't even think about,” Montgomery said. “Licking my fingers, stuff like that, I’ve tried stopping it in my bullpens and just kind of shutting it down. I've been doing better.”

One in the books
There has been a great amount of effort behind the scenes to transform Yankee Stadium into a sanitary workplace in which to hold Summer Camp, and other than the batted ball that struck Masahiro Tanaka, Boone offered a positive review for his team’s first official day back in The Bronx.

“I thought it went pretty well,” Boone said. “Obviously, when Masa got hit, that took a little air out of it and got everyone's attention and put a little fear in everyone. That dampened things, but I felt from an operation standpoint, we're in pretty good shape. I like the way we rolled through the bullpens, having four bullpen mounds out there to use worked well.

“It's obviously a little bit longer day for the coaching staff, running through a couple of different groups, but overall, I think we're in a pretty good spot facility-wise with what we're able to do. We'll get a little creative with things on the field in the days to come, but I feel overall that we're able to get the kind of work we had hoped.”

Up next
The Yankees’ Summer Camp will continue on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. The YES Network is scheduled to air two hours of live coverage beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.