Through the first four games of the season, nobody in a Yankees uniform was struggling at the plate more than Aaron Hicks.
The center fielder started the year 1-for-15 with seven strikeouts, failing to produce out of the third spot in New York's order.
"Definitely not the start I wanted," Hicks said on Friday. "I go out there ready to compete every single day and the results just haven't been there."
Hicks made that comment before taking the field in Tampa Bay on Friday afternoon, looking for a fresh start on New York's first road trip of the season. After popping out in his first at-bat, one swing from the switch-hitter showed Hicks is getting back on track.
Veteran left-hander Rich Hill tried to sneak a two-strike fastball by Hicks, but the center fielder was all over it, sending a two-run home run 406 feet to left field. The blast, Hicks' first extra base hit of the young season, came off his bat at 106.1 mph.
Before the game, Hicks mentioned that he was feeling more comfortable from the right-hand side of the plate. That's the same side of the batter's box where Hicks poked an RBI single up the middle against the Orioles on Wednesday.
Asked over the weekend about Hicks' spot in the lineup, and whether or not he'd be moved back after the slow start, Yankees manager Aaron Boone had his center fielder's back.
"It's one weekend," Boone said. "I think up and down our lineup, Aaron included, it's guys with a pretty good track record. So, I'm always willing to mix things up and change things up a little bit just depending on circumstances and things like that. But over the long haul, Aaron Hicks is going to be alright."
Hicks admitted on Friday that he's been "expanding the strike zone," trying extra hard to get a hit. The 31-year-old is coming off a season where he led the American League with a .194 walk rate, constantly showcasing his elite plate discipline.
That ability to get on base is part of the reason why Boone and the Yankees like Hicks in the third spot, helping extend innings and keep the line moving into the heart of the lineup.
Hicks understands how much of a challenge it is to be a switch-hitter. His plan going forward is to replicate what he did on Friday, capitalizing on pitches to hit in the zone without chasing.
"When you [expand the zone] against big-league pitching, it's not going to work out well for you," he said. "I just have to zero in a little bit better with the strike zone, be a little bit more patient and when I get a pitch, don't miss it. That is the most important thing. When I get a pitch, don't miss it."
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