MINNEAPOLIS — Aaron Hicks’ batting average is still under the .100 mark, but the Twins rookie outfielder has gotten better at-bats over the last week.
The 23-year-old Hicks had drawn 11 walks prior to Friday’s game against the Texas Rangers. That number leads all major league rookies. He’s walked in six of his last seven games and has reached base in seven straight games, dating back to April 15. In those seven games, his on-base percentage is .458 (three hits and eight walks in 24 plate appearances).
Prior to those seven games, his on-base percentage was just .109 as he drew three walks and had and had two hits in 43 at-bats.
That has to help the rookie’s confidence, right?
“There’s no doubt,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “You could see him in the dugout when he was really going through it, it was a little bit of a scuffle. Mentally, you could see him fighting it, which is understandable. He’s a kid off to a tough start. But he’s to the point where I’m not worrying about him anymore.”
Patience has always been a part of Hicks’ game. Last season with Double-A New Britain, he had an on-base percentage of .384 while batting .286 with the Rock Cats. In five minor league seasons, he had a combined on-base percentage of .379.
That didn’t translate into Hicks’ first few weeks in the majors after he made the Twins’ 25-man roster out of spring. Over the last week, though, his approach has been much different.
“My at-bats are showing it,” Hicks said Friday. “I’m getting more hits, getting on base more. I definitely feel good.”
Even though the hits are still few and far between — just three in his last 11 games — his ability to draw walks has helped him settle in at the plate.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster the more you get on base and you help your team to win more games,” Hicks said. “It’s definitely something that I pride myself on. That’s kind of just part of my game. I usually walk a lot throughout the season.”
Hicks began the season as the Twins’ leadoff hitter but was moved down in the order after his early struggles. He’s batting eighth Friday against the Rangers and has typically hit toward the bottom of the order since relinquishing the leadoff role.
Hicks said he understands the reason the Twins moved him down. So far, it seems to be paying off.
“He’s (having) good at-bats, he’s walking, he’s going deep in counts,” Gardenhire said. “He still has a lot to learn about big league baseball and situational baseball, but we’re trying not to throw everything on his head at once. We’ll learn and we’ll talk about it as we go along.”
Sano continues hot hitting: One of the Minnesota Twins’ top hitting prospects is on a tear.
Third baseman Miguel Sano hit his ninth home run of the season on Friday for High-A Fort Myers. He has now homered in four of his past five games. Prior to Friday’s game, Sano was batting .377/.430/.753 with 20 RBI in 20 games with the Miracle. He easily leads the Florida State league in home runs and RBI.
The 19-year-old Sano’s fielding has improved since last season, too. At Low-A Beloit in 2012, Sano committed 42 errors in 125 games with a fielding percentage of .884. Through 20 games at High-A Fort Myers, he has just four errors for a .942 fielding percentage.
Sano spent all of last season at Beloit, but given the way he’s hitting at Fort Myers it wouldn’t be shocking if the Twins moved him up to Double-A New Britain at some point this year.