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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Cardinals tab Miles Mikolas for Opening Day start

Miles Mikolas
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The Cardinals have selected right-hander Miles Mikolas as their Opening Day starter, the club revealed Saturday. It’ll mark the first career Opening Day start for Mikolas, who is scheduled to go up against the Brewers when the team hits the road on March 28.

The 29-year-old righty was a strong contender for the 2018 NL Cy Young Award, earning All-Star distinctions and pitching to a career-best 18-4 record with a 2.83 ERA, 1.3 BB/9, 6.5 SO/9, and 4.3 fWAR over 200 2/3 innings. He’s positioned to lead the Cardinals rotation in 2019 as well, with former Opening Day starters Carlos Martínez and Adam Wainwright and some combination of right-handers Jack Flaherty, Michael Wacha, Alex Reyes, and John Gant behind him.

Manager Mike Shildt told reporters that Flaherty, Wacha, Wainwright, and Martínez had all been considered for the honor, but admitted that Opening Day honors were ultimately handed to Mikolas “in recognition of [his performance] last year.” The Cardinals are scheduled to play a four-game set against the Brewers to start the season and will stop over in Pittsburgh for another two games before returning to St. Louis for their opening homestand against the Padres on April 4. Additional pitching assignments have yet to be announced.