CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Aaron Hicks made a pretty strong case that he should be the Twins’ starting center fielder.
He homered three times and helped the Twins to a 10-6 victory against the Phillies on a windy Thursday. He now has five home runs in his last three games.
“Wow, what do you say? Play the elements,” Twins manager Rod Gardenhire said. “Wind’s blowing out, and he hit `em out where the wind’s blowing. Pretty fun day. You don’t see that too many times.”
Hicks hit homers in the first, fifth and seventh innings, the first coming on the second pitch of the game from Phillies starter Cliff Lee. He went 4 for 5 in the game with six RBIs.
“He had a pretty good day,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “Mother Nature kind of helped him though.”
Hicks came up in the eighth inning with a chance at four homers, but instead laced a broken-bat, two-RBI single to center.
“Of course I wanted to go for the fourth one,” Hicks said. “I had two pitches to do it on, missed both of them. Got a changeup, broken-bat base hit. Died a hero but got two runs in.”
Hicks said the last time he hit three home runs was in high school.
Lee pitched 3 2-3 innings, gave up two runs, four hits and struck out five in his third appearance of spring training.
“I feel good,” Lee said. “I feel strong. I felt like I could keep going, but I don’t know what my pitch count was.”
The Phillies held a steady lead for most of the contest, leading 6-3 as late as the sixth inning. Hicks’ solo homer in the seventh, along with a run scored on Zach Miner’s wild pitch, narrowed the lead to one before the five-run outburst in the eighth.
Miner took most of the shelling, allowing five of the Twins’ 10 runs in his inning of work. Miner, who signed a minor-league contract with the Phillies with a non-roster invite to spring training, allowed three hits and walked two.
Darin Ruf, who has struggled most of the spring, led the Phillies at the plate with a 2 for 4 effort. His double in the second inning plated two in the second inning, and his single an inning later scored another run.
Coming into the contest, Ruf, who is battling for a starting outfield job, was 3 for 28 this spring.
“Hopefully that gets him going,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “Ruf is a good hitter. I don’t worry about him going 3 for 30 or something. He might be trying a little hard. At the same time, he’s all right.”
Dan Rohlfing also homered for the Twins, a solo shot off Lee. NOTES: Manuel said Ryan Howard will have Friday’s game at the Rays off. Howard has started 14 games in 14 days before that…Hicks will play again Friday, as the Twins play the Red Sox…Jonathan Papelbon was scratched from his outing tomorrow, as he is still dealing a lingering illness.