Twins, Hicks off to chilly start

MINNEAPOLIS — The future might be brighter for the Minnesota Twins down the line. But Aaron Hicks hopes he took his first step toward a solid career on Monday.

The Twins have lost 99 and 96 games the past two seasons. Desperate for starting pitching in 2013, and in the near future, the Twins traded center fielders Denard Span and Ben Revere in the offseason.

That left a gaping hole in the outfield. Enter Hicks. The 23-year-old figures to be in the next wave of successful players for the Twins. But he sped up the process by winning the center field job in spring training.

Hicks got his first taste of big league action on Monday as the Twins played the season opener at Target Field against the Detroit Tigers, the defending American League Central Division champs.

"I felt good in spring training," Hicks said. "I feel I should be here. Just because day one didn't go great doesn't mean I shouldn't be here."


No, day one didn't go great for Hicks or the Twins. The Twins opened the season with a 4-2 loss to the Tigers on a chilly day at Target Field.

Hicks, who made the jump from playing in Class AA last season, had a tough test in his first game. He was facing Tigers ace Justin Verlander, the owner of two career no-hitters and the 2011 American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner. Hicks went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts against Verlander. Hicks, a speedy switch hitter, added a ground out and a walk in two plate appearances against relievers.

"He had two really good at-bats at the end," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's what we're looking for."

Hicks batted leadoff for the Twins. He was fooled for strike three on a change-up in his first at-bat and then on a curveball in his third trip to the plate.

"It was fun to actually get the knowledge and experience facing him," Hicks said of battling Verlander.

"I wanted to get that first hit," he added. "But (on) the ground out and the walk, I felt more comfortable."

Hicks might not have had a hit, or had a chance in the field, but he certainly enjoyed opening day. The California native had his parents in the stands and he got to meet his favorite player prior to the game, Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, who played 11 seasons in Minnesota.

"It was fun to meet him and talk to him," Hicks said.


Hicks even got some advice from Twins All-Star catcher Joe Mauer.

"Just try to tell it's the same game (as in the minor leagues)," Mauer said. "He'll be fine. ... He was taking some tough pitches against Verlander."

All the players had to face tough playing conditions. The temperature at game time was 35 degrees. It was sunny, but a breeze was blowing at 17 miles per hour. Fans were bundled up in parkas, stocking caps and mittens and they didn't have much to cheer about.

"It was cold," Hicks said. "I think I went through like six hand warmers."

"It got cold in the shade, which in right field was about the second inning," Twins right fielder Chris Parmelee said. "It's another thing keeping our hands warm. It's never easy playing this game in the cold like that."

It may take awhile, but the weather will eventually warm up at Target Field. The Twins, however, may never get hot enough to be a serious contender in the Central Division this season. But that's not a concern of Hicks' right now. He's just looking to improve every game so he can become a force in the future.

"There's been a long line of great center fielders here," Hicks said. "I'd like to be the next one."

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