MINNEAPOLIS — As he continues to struggle at the plate, Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks has decided to make a change and ditch his left-handed swing. The former switch hitter will now focus solely on hitting right-handed in an effort to regain his confidence on offense.
Manager Ron Gardenhire announced the news before Monday’s game against Texas. The 24-year-old Hicks is batting just .187 this season, but was hitting a mere .149 as a left-handed batter against right-handed pitchers. Meanwhile, he hit .263 as a right-handed hitter while facing left-handed pitching.
Hicks said Monday that it was his decision to make the change, and he approached the Twins about it. Gardenhire noted that he did not try to talk Hicks out of the decision.
"Now it’s only one side I have to worry about, and it’s the side I feel confident on," Hicks said. "I’ve had a lot of success on that (right) side. Making the change to stop hitting left-handed and start hitting right-handed is definitely something I’m looking forward to."
Hicks has been a switch hitter since he first started playing baseball, he said. Early on in his minor league career, he had more success from the right side. But his numbers from both sides of the plate evened out a bit at Double-A New Britain.
Yet once Hicks got to the major leagues last season, he’s had little success as a left-handed batter. In 118 big league games, Hicks is a career .178 hitter as a left-handed batter versus right-handed pitching and hit .227 as a right-handed hitter against left-handed pitchers.
"He came to me this morning and said he wants to hit right-handed," Gardenhire said. "Obviously if a guy has no confidence left-handed, I told him, ‘You have to do what you have to do.’ . . . We’ll see how he does. He’s confident right-handed. We’ll see how it works out."
Gardenhire said he’s never had a player make this kind of switch during his tenure as manager, but there are other examples throughout baseball. Recently, Boston outfielder Shane Victorino opted to hit only right-handed after spending his career as a switch-hitter.
In an ideal world, the Twins would let Hicks work on his right-handed swing down in Triple-A Rochester, but Minnesota doesn’t have another center fielder on the roster with Sam Fuld still sidelined by a concussion. That means Hicks’ experiment will play out at the major league level, beginning Monday against Rangers right-hander Nick Tepesch.
"He’s our center fielder. We need him up here," Gardenhire said. "This kid’s an athlete. He does have a good right-handed swing."
Hicks was just 1-for-11 on the Twins’ road trip to San Diego and San Francisco, dropping his average on the year to .187. But he said there wasn’t just one factor that contributed to his decision to ditch his left-handed swing.
"It’s been a combination of a lot of things," Hicks said. "For me, all I want to do is just produce for my team and do what I can to help the team win. I feel like this is the decision that’s going to do that."
Arcia, Willingham back in lineup: Minnesota finally has its Opening Day outfield together again, as Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia made their returns to the lineup for the first time since early April.
Willingham has been sidelined with a hand injury since he was hit with a pitch on April 6. He completed a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester and was activated from the 15-day disabled list prior to Monday’s game.
Arcia hasn’t played in the majors since April 4. He had a wrist injury that limited him early in the year. Once he was activated from the DL, he was optioned to Rochester. In 22 games with the Red Wings, Arcia hit .312 with five home runs and 18 RBI.
"I feel happy to be back, and I feel 100 percent, so I’m glad I’m here," Arcia said, via translator Eduardo Nunez.
Arcia is batting fourth and playing right field Monday, while Willingham is hitting fifth and playing left field. Along with Hicks in center field, it marks the first time Minnesota has that trio together in the outfield since April 4.
"It’s exciting. In the first place, you get to see those two big guys in the middle that can drive a baseball, which is a big thing," Gardenhire said. "Hopefully these guys can inject a little bit (of offense) into us. I know Arcia was swinging the bat very well and driving the baseball, and we know Willy can, too. We’ll see how it goes. I’m excited to have them back."