Hicks showcasing versatility with Oakland

ARLINGTON, Texas — It has been an interesting road for Brandon Hicks to reach this point, as a jack-of-all-trades infielder for the Oakland Athletics. But the former Texas A&M shortstop is now getting a chance to show his versatility as he has already played first base, second base and his natural position of shortstop through his first four games with the A’s.

The 26-year-old Houston native was drafted in the third round of the June 2007 Amateur Draft by Atlanta, debuted with the Braves in May 2010 and made the Bravos’ Opening Day roster in 2011 before Atlanta cut him loose this spring.

Oakland claimed him off waivers in March and after spending the first few months of the season with Triple-A Sacramento, where he hit .272 with 13 HR and 48 RBI in 65 games, he was promoted to the A’s on June 23.

“I started off slow this year, not the way that I really wanted to. But I got it going there for a while, stayed around .270 or so. I got hot last homestand, was able to hit home runs six or seven out of eight games something like that and was able to get the opportunity to come up here and play,” Hicks said of his time in the Pacific Coast League.

With the River Cats, he played at third but also saw a lot of time at second base, but through his first four games with the A’s, he has played two games at short against the Giants and has also played at first and second base against the Mariners and this talented Texan knows such versatility can only help his chances of sticking with Bob Melvin’s club.

“Actually this year in Sacramento, I played a lot of second base. Last year, I played a little bit of first base but I’m comfortable at all four infield positions,” Hicks said.

And speaking of his new skipper, he is also a pretty big fan of having someone as versatile on his roster to plug into different positions as needed.

“He’s been a nice versatile guy for us. At this point, he’s played first, second and short and at some point in time he’ll play third,” Melvin said. “He’s got some pop in his bat and hits left-handed pitching pretty well so that’s kind of what we targeted him to do, is play against left-handed pitching and be that versatile guy that can play anywhere in the infield. Well, I think short and second are his most natural positions. He’s probably going to play the most at short.”

So not only is he getting a fresh start in Oakland, but he’s also getting to play alongside another fellow Aggie in A’s starting shortstop Cliff Pennington, a Corpus Christi native, a player he knows pretty well.

“Yeah, it’s cool. I remember I watching him when I was in junior college and high school on TV when he was playing short at A&M and how good of a player he was,” Hicks said. “It’s good to be with him, learn from him and stuff like that.”

Now in his fifth big-league season, Pennington is definitely glad to have another Aggie in the A’s clubhouse. “Anytime you go to a school like A&M where tradition is so big, having another guy that went there it’s always fun,” he said. “He’s played great so far, had some great at bats, driving the ball and he’s an Aggie. That makes him good.”

And that advice is something Hicks is definitely more than willing to take from his fellow Aggie and fellow infielder. “It’s been good,” he said. “He helped me out positioning wise with where to play certain players because he knows them a lot more than I do. He’s been a big help in that part of the game.”

His new veteran teammate is also regularly offering his fellow A&M product bits of sage advice to help make his transition to his new club as seamless as possible. “He understands the game, a smart player,” Pennington said. “Just trying to go through kind of the Oakland A’s, what we do as a team, our responsibilities as infielders and just make sure he understands all that.”

And while some players might be a bit bitter and hold a grudge over being released by the team that drafted them after a relatively small sample size as was the case with him during his time with the Braves, but instead of looking back, Hicks is keeping his focus where it needs to be, on his present and future and he views his time with Atlanta as an invaluable learning experience.

“Yeah, I think I learned a lot over there,” he said. “My role was backing up, watching older guys, watching all those great players over there, how they go about it every day, go about their work and stuff like that. I think it was a huge learning process for me.”

But he’ll be the first to admit, sometimes a change of scenery is the perfect thing to invigorate a player and that’s definitely been the case with him since coming to the Athletics. “It’s a relaxed atmosphere,” Hicks said. “You just come in here and just worry about playing baseball and what you’ve got to do to win the game tonight.”