Twins publicly criticize Aaron Hicks’ lack of preparation

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Aaron Hicks was handed an Opening Day job both last season and this season, but now the 24-year-old center fielder is in danger of playing himself back to the minors and the Twins are talking publicly about his lack of preparation.

Hicks has hit .186 through 109 career games, including .192 last year and .167 this year, and yesterday manager Ron Gardenhire talked openly about being frustrated with the one-time top prospect:

We had a long talk, just about baseball, about picking it up, numbers. This game, no matter how we try to say it, developing at the major league level, whatever you want to try to do here, it is still about numbers. To hit .160, .170, those don’t last in the big leagues.

He needs to start studying the game a little more, studying the pitchers a little bit more, a little extra work in the outfield, doing drills and everything. Your whole game, the way you come to the ballpark and your approach to the game. … You can’t just throw your talent out of the field and say, “I can do this.”

Assistant general manager Rob Anthony had similar comments about Hicks:

I think he gets preoccupied with some things about his game. It’s not that he’s distracted by other things. I think it’s more a matter of thinking about what he’s going to do, but I don’t think he always has a plan–how that guy is going to pitch him, how he’s going to be prepared for it.

Obviously any player not working hard to prepare himself is fair game for criticism, but it’s also worth noting that a) Hicks came up through the Twins’ farm system, where he should have been taught those things, and b) the Twins rushed him to the majors last year because they were so convinced he was ready to make the jump from Double-A.

Minnesota traded both Denard Span and Ben Revere last offseason to clear the path for Hicks to take over in center field and now the Twins’ lack of other options at the position have likely forced them to stick with him longer than they might have normally.

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Giants place Hunter Pence on 10-day disabled list with right thumb sprain

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The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.

Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).

Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.