Spring has delivered a couple of significant injuries to the Yankees roster this year. Luis Severino’s shoulder issues stand out as the most troublesome, but Aaron Hicks’ back injury has become worrisome as well. Hicks has been out since March 2nd with pain in his back that has limited his ability to swing the bat, and just recently on Monday received a cortisone shot to aid in the recovery.
Injuries are always concerning, but one that directly impacts your ability to play the game like this is particularly worth monitoring. Yankees manager Aaron Boone has since declared his confidence that Hicks should be back in time for Opening Day on March 28, and Hicks is aiming for that deadline as well, but if Hicks isn’t 100-percent by that time there should be no rush to get him in the lineup.
Hicks is valuable, for sure. He’s arguably the Yankees only leadoff hitter unless Brett Gardner’s bat bounces back in a big way this year, and he plays one of the most crucial defensive positions at an above-average rate. Yet that value is exactly why the Yankees should ease him back in as best they can, rather than spring for an aggressive return date due at the start of the season.
Hicks is a crucial part of the roster, and has a history of injuries previously. If the Yankees want to keep him healthy for the bulk of the year, as they did last season, when Hicks appeared in a career-high 137 games, the last thing they should do is rush him back too soon. Just earlier this week, we saw the detrimental effect that trying to push through injury can have, as Tommy Kahnle revealed that his miserable 2018 campaign stemmed from a hidden biceps problem. Instead of risking having Hicks return to soon and ending up playing in pain, the Yankees should exercise caution
In the meantime, the team actually looks fairly well-prepared to deal with the possibility that Hicks need to sit, at least for the short-term. Gardner can shift over to center for a spell, freeing up an outfield spot for Giancarlo Stanton to get some work in. Clint Frazier, if need be, is healthy and ready to play as well if Stanton is needed to DH. It’s not an ideal set-up, but for a couple of weeks, it should be more than fine. If Hicks’ injury developed into something more serious that hampered him all season, then the strain on the Yankees’ outfield defense and depth might start to show. Plus, more Stanton in left could allow the Yankees to play Miguel Andujar more at DH, and take some pressure off the young third baseman if his defensive struggles continue.
It’s also not like the Yankees will desperately need Hicks to decide some of the early games they’re facing. The first three series of the season pit the team against two of the bottom-dwellers of the American League last year in the Orioles and the Tigers, and neither did much to improve over the offseason. Even if the worst-case scenario for Hicks unfolds and he misses Opening Day and beyond, a tune-up game before the next series starts against Houston would have him right back in the fold. If Hicks is ready to go in a couple weeks, great. If not, the Yankees have every opportunity to be careful, and they should do so.