By George A. King III
The Yankees acquired switch-hitter Aaron Hicks from the Twins for John Ryan Murphy because he hit well against left-handed pitchers — and he has started all four times the club has faced a lefty this season.
In Thursday’s 7-3 Yankees loss, Hicks had a bloop RBI single and a walk against Athletics lefty starter Rich Hill before Brett Gardner pinch hit for him in the seventh inning.
Inserting Hicks in the starting lineup meant manager Joe Girardi had to sit one of his two lefty-hitting outfielders — Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury. Gardner has sat three times this season, including Thursday, and Ellsbury once. Girardi said that had the A’s thrown a right-hander, Gardner, who missed Wednesday’s game with a stiff neck, would have been in the lineup.
Hicks is batting .095 (2-for-21) overall and 1-for-14 as a right-handed hitter. Yes, 14 games isn’t enough to make major decisions. However, it is a results-oriented business and Gardner is batting .300 (12-for-40). Ellsbury, who went 3-for-5, is at .255 (14-for-55). Both of them have better numbers than Hicks against lefties: Gardner is 2-for-6 (.333) and Ellsbury is at .250 (4-for-16).
How long can Girardi hang in with Hicks? Will there come a time when the manager believes he has a better lineup with Gardner and Ellsbury playing against lefties?
“I am sure it could but when you look at Hicksie’s at-bats, the at-bats are better than the numbers indicate,’’ Girardi said. “He has hit the ball pretty hard left-handed and hasn’t had a lot of success. That because frustrating, too.’’
Hicks turned in two strong defensive plays Thursday night. He raced near the wall in foul territory beyond the foul line in left to snag Chris Coghlan’s fly ball in the fourth and threw out Jed Lowrie attempting to stretch a single into a double in the sixth.
Hicks started Wednesday night against A’s right-hander Kendall Graveman because Gardner’s neck was stiff and went hitless in three at-bats and made a terrible throw home in the fourth inning. He also created a buzz in the same inning with a throw to home plate that got Danny Valencia and was clocked at 105 mph.
“I got about 50 text messages yesterday, just talking about the throw. ‘Who’s controlling the radar gun?’ That kind of stuff,’’ Hicks said. “It’s definitely cool to be the first person to make a throw like that, especially with the situation that we were in.”
As a high school pitcher, the right-handed Hicks said he reached 98 mph and said he would volunteer to pitch if Girardi needs him.
Alex Rodriguez requested that Prince songs be played for his walk-up music. Rodriguez used four different songs by the singer, who died Thursday, in four plate appearances.
“Tribute to one of the great legends,’’ Rodriguez said.
Brian McCann had a first baseman’s glove on during batting practice Thursday night and was fielding throws at the bag. McCann has yet to play first base this year, but has played 26 games at first in his career.
McCann took a foul ball off the big toe on his left foot on April 12, and is 2-for-22 (.091) since. The left-handed-hitting catcher wasn’t in the lineup with Austin Romine catching starter Luis Severino, but whiffed twice after entering the game in the seventh as a pinch hitter.
Romine went 1-for-2 with an RBI single that gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning before McCann pinch hit for him in the seventh.