The lineup card on the door at each end of the Yankees’ clubhouse contained a name that hadn’t been seen before in the team’s MRI-filled season.
The No. 1 spot read like this: “Hicks 8”
It was Game 41, the series opener against Baltimore on Monday night at Yankee Stadium. Aaron Hicks was activated from the injured list. His season was finally going to begin.
“It feels good to finally be back with the team and playing again,” he said after arriving at the ballpark.
But Hicks will have to wait a day to play again. The game was postponed because of unplayable field conditions after all the rain, so Opening Night for Hicks should come Tuesday instead. He's just happy his back is good to go.
The 29-year-old switch hitter signed a seven-year, $70 million deal on Feb. 25, then went down with a lower-back strain on March 1. Hicks said it “started to feel really good” about three days after he received a second cortisone shot on March 17 and that “it’s been feeling good since.”
Hicks said he has been told the back issue is chronic, so he has to stay on a new routine to try to prevent flare-ups, working on his core muscles and keeping his hips loose.
“I have a core exercise that I have to do every day now,” Hicks said. “It’s kind of one of those things that I have to maintain to get the results and make my body feel the way I want it to.
“When I do my core exercises, my back feels good.”
Asked about Hicks’ words regarding the chronic nature of his back situation, Aaron Boone said, “I think part of that is why it took a long time, really making sure he was built up properly …”
Last season, Hicks’ third with the Yankees, was a breakthrough year, complete with 27 homers and 79 RBIs.
“I feel like he’s one of the most underrated players in the game,” Boone said. “I mean, centerfielder with the plate discipline and power that he has at the plate, the speed he brings to the game. Just a really good all-around player, dynamic player and an impact player. So to get him back, we’re obviously very excited.”
Hicks' rehab assignment lasted five games, three with high Class A Tampa and two with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He finally got his first hits in his finale Saturday — two doubles and a homer.
“I was just being able to kind of recognize balls a little bit better,” he said of the trip to Triple-A. “Most importantly, I just kind of wanted to build some confidence.”
Hicks has been on the DL or IL at least once in every season dating to his rookie year with Minnesota in 2013.
“You kind of just come to accept it,” he said of being sidelined again. “It’s one of those things where when you’re hurt, you can’t really do much about it. So what’s the point of sulking about it and thinking what it could be when you don’t have that option?”