The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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May 20, 2013

Thoma column: Twins going into the outfield future

When the Twins traded away both Denard Span and Ben Revere in the span of a few December days, the knew they’d be breaking in a pair of rookie outfielders.

As it turns out, they’re breaking in three — Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia and Chris Parmelee.

It’s been a bumpy ride for all three.

Hicks has had the most difficult time of the trio, and he also figures to have the longest leash. He’s a center fielder, and neither of the other two have the tools for that position.

His 0-fer Saturday dropped his batting average to .142 — the lowest batting average among the 90 qualifiers in the American League. Even more worrisome: his on-base percentage — his strong suit as a hitter because he’s willing to take a walk — is third lowest. His slugging percentage is second lowest.

He’s been better in May than he was in April, but that’s not saying much. His May average still sits below .200 (entering Sunday’s game).

But the Twins will stick with him. I heard Ron Gardenhire this week, asked on the radio about Hicks’ big game on Monday (two homers and a spectacular catch), say something like:

People say send him here, send him there. But you’ve got to have somebody to replace him with.

And, by implication, the Twins lack a plausible replacement. Darin Mastroianni remains sidelined with troubled left ankle. Joe Benson is spluttering in Triple A himself (batting average .187).

Hicks had a well-established pattern in the minors of struggling initially when moved up in the farm system, and he’s skipping a level this spring. It should have been expected that he’d have some troubles at the plate. But I don’t think anybody expected them to be this deep.

Arcia, one of the star bats in the system wasn’t supposed to be here now. But when Mastroianni went down, Arcia came up in mid-April, and the Twins didn’t call him to the majors at age 21 (he turned 22 this month) to sit on the bench.

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