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Around the Empire: Yankees News - 7/17/19

Aaron Hicks is turning it around offensively; the lack of power may be coming to an end for Didi Gregorius; CC Sabathia at the center of another dust-up with the Rays

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

New York Post | Ethan Sears: Aaron Hicks is returning to form offensively and that sounds just about right. The Yankee center fielder says it takes about 100 at-bats to get himself comfortable at the plate for the season. Normally, those plate appearances would come during the spring when there is less pressure and more time to work on the intricacies of the game. But, thanks to a lingering injury, Hicks missed spring training and the first six weeks of the season. As he says of those early spring at bats:

It allows you to be able to work on stuff. Allow yourself to get to two strikes and kinda try to battle from there. Work on hitting early in the count. Really just work on trying to hit fastballs up the middle. Stay on off-speed.

To show the difference that 100 at-bats can make: in his first 100 of the 2019 season, Hicks was batting .198. Over the 16 games since, he’s up to .328 with a 1.026 OPS. Hicks may have a future in fortune-telling (...get it?).

Newsday | Kenny DeJohn: Speaking of hitters turning it on, Didi Gregorius could be getting his power back. Over his first 25 games since returning from Tommy John surgery, Gregorius hasn’t been spectacular, hitting just four home runs over 103 at bats (not including his monster grand slam from last night). But, based on the trends of other hitters returning from Tommy John, that might not mean longterm trouble.

Over his first 25 games after returning from surgery, Dodgers’ shortstop Corey Seager managed just two homers and seven RBIs with a .795 OPS. In his 45 games since, he’s hit six homers, knocked in 32 RBIs, and upped his OPS to .809.

The AngelsShohei Ohtani hit five home runs with a .730 OPS over his first 25 after returning from surgery. In his next 32 games, he mashed nine homers with a 1.048 OPS.

Hopefully that grand slam is the turning point that Didi needs to light the fire. | Bryan Hoch: If there’s one thing you can say about CC Sabathia, it’s that the man loves a good fight with Tampa Bay. In last night’s win over the the Yankees’ division rival, Sabathia struck out Avisail Garcia to end the 6th inning, and some jawing ensued. Didi ran over to hold back the big man and the benches briefly cleared but no real damage was done.

While this little dust-up was nothing to write home about, it comes on the heels of one of the more heated moments of 2018, when Sabathia defended Austin Romine by throwing at Jesus Sucre even though he knew he would get ejected and lose out on a $500,000 bonus incentive. The Rays don’t seem to be going away in 2019, so this spark between the two clubs has some extra sauce on it. It should make for some dramatic and tense moments down the stretch.