BALTIMORE—Aaron Hicks is hoping his arrival with the Orioles means a revival for his career. It has been a tough few years for Hicks, who was released by the New York Yankees last week after hitting .188 with a home run and five RBIs in 28 games this year.
In his first game with the Orioles, Hicks played center field and was 2-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored before leaving with muscle cramps after six innings.
“I’m excited to be here,” Hicks said. “It’s an exciting young team, excited to help them win.”
Hicks spent eight seasons with the Yankees, regularly facing the Orioles.
“I’ve had some success here. I’m excited to see this new team,” Hicks said. “They’re definitely young and exciting. They come ready to play every single day, which is what I like. I’m just excited to get to know them, really.”
Hicks is 33, one of the oldest players on the team, and he’s aware of the relative youth as he tries to replace Cedric Mullins in center while he recuperates from a strained right groin.
“I’m a veteran. That’s a little something different,” Hicks said. “I’ll help them any way I can and also go out there and do my thing and try and produce for the team. I’ve played a lot of games here, in center and in left. I’m pretty comfortable with the ballclub.”
When Hicks first joined the Yankees in 2016, the Orioles made the playoffs as a wild-card team, and he watched as they began to lose. Now, they’re a team on the rise.
“They were rebuilding into a solid team,” Hicks said. “The lineup, you can tell from top-to-bottom … There’s a lot of pieces around that make them win games.”
In 2017 and 2018, Hicks had WARs (Wins Above Replacement) of 3.9 and 4.4, but since then, they’ve been 1.3, .7. -.3, 1.6 and -.5 this year.
“It’s been rough,” he said. “I’ve had some good games here and I’ve had some bad games. It’s about getting into a rhythm. Hopefully, get an opportunity to play every single day while Mullins is out and get going to solidify a spot and understand where I’m at on the team.”
Along with catcher Adley Rutschman, Mullins is considered the most difficult player for the Orioles to replace.
“There’s no replacing him. He’s a young player that’s already got himself a Silver Slugger and an All-Star appearance,” Hicks said. “It’s pretty much just try to help the team win. You can’t try to replace him. You have to do your game and see how that goes.”
Hicks remains confident. In his next-to-last game with the Yankees on May 18th, he was 3-for-4.
“Actually, I felt I was starting to get something going,” Hicks said. “I was starting to get going. I felt good at the plate. It’s a business. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
Manager Brandon Hyde watched Hicks regularly as an opponent, and now he’ll look at him differently.
“He’s a guy that’s been around the league for a long time,” Hyde said. “He’s had a tough year so far and hopefully he can turn it around for us and maybe a fresh start and a new beginning. He’s excited to play and he’s excited to be here.
“There are some guys around the league where a change of scenery has helped. I think that sometimes you just need a little bit of fresh air and a change of uniform and maybe it energizes you. Hopefully, that happens with Aaron. He still has got a ton of ability and unbelievably athletic and can hit the ball out of the ballpark from both sides and do a lot of different things. He’s shown he can do that in his career and we’re hoping that this change will help him this time.”
Starting pitcher Kyle Gibson and Hicks were first-round draft choices by the Minnesota Twins in consecutive years, and Gibson likes the idea of adding his former teammate.
“As young guys, former first-round picks, we spent a lot of time together on the road,” Gibson said. “We golfed a lot. As a teammate, I’ve always enjoyed being around him. He treated me really well. We had similar paths. We tried to stick together … He’s beat me on the course many, many times.”
It’s hard for a new player to adjust when he comes into a clubhouse during the season, but Gibson thinks Hick can do it.
“It’s really important for that player coming in to see where his personality fits in,” Gibson said. “We obviously know because he’s an outfielder and with Cedric’s injury, his position fits in fine. He’s not trying to take over an established player’s spot. He’s filling a big need for us … He’s going to fit in fine here.”
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias had reached out to Hicks’ agent after his release, but Hicks was surprised the call came quickly.
“I was at home watching different teams, seeing what kind of opportunities would open up and see where I would fit,” Hicks said. “With the injury to Mullins, the opportunity came up quicker than I thought. I’m excited to be here and get going.”
There was some chatter that Hicks might transition from baseball to golf, and even though he’s a scratch golfer, the PGA Tour doesn’t seem likely.
“Of course, I would love to,” Hicks said. “It’s a childhood dream of mine. I think my wife, after I’m done, wants me to stay at home and help me with the kids. I’m going to go ahead and do that.”