Yankees' Aaron Hicks, right, is congratulated by Andrew Benintendi (18)...

Yankees' Aaron Hicks, right, is congratulated by Andrew Benintendi (18) after scoring against the Oakland Athletics during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022.  Credit: Jeff Chiu

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The most difficult adjustment in going from an everyday player to one hoping to get in the lineup once, maybe twice a week?

“The biggest challenge is not playing,” Aaron Hicks said. “To go four or five days not playing and having an at-bat against a tough pitcher is the toughest part. To come in cold.”

When Hicks, an everyday outfielder much of the season, started in centerfield in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the A’s in Oakland, it was his first start in a week.

Hicks went 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored. His two-out single in the fifth against Adrian Martinez was the Yankees’ first hit of the day. Hicks, who scored on Kyle Higashioka’s single, is 6-for-60 in 20 games dating to July 28.

“Good to see him smoke a ball through the middle from the left side," Aaron Boone said. "That was good to see. Real competitive at-bat there from the right side to work the walk his last time, so that was good to see him come in and put together some competitive at-bats."

But Hicks, hitting .216 with six homers and a .638 OPS in 106 games, is a long way from being considered an everyday option again. He hasn’t quibbled with his benching, either.

“You can only struggle for so long,” Hicks has said several times. “I know that I’m a better player than what I’m showing.”  

Prospect Estevan Florial took time away from Hicks when the Yankees recently brought him up — as well as another prospect, Oswaldo Cabrera — in an attempt to spark a struggling team. Florial has since been sent back to Triple-A but Cabrera, a natural infielder, has thrived wherever the Yankees have put him, whether it be at third, short, second or rightfield.

Trade deadline acquisition Andrew Benintendi, swinging a hot bat after a slow start as a Yankee, is cemented in leftfield. When Cabrera has started in rightfield, Aaron Judge has played centerfield, leaving no room for Hicks. Assuming Harrison Bader, another deadline acquisition, comes back by mid-September from the plantar fasciitis he’s dealing with, Hicks will be further blocked from getting back in the lineup regularly.

Even after a reasonably productive game Sunday, Hicks was back on the bench Monday night as Benintendi, Aaron Judge and Cabrera started in the outfield against the Angels.

“We’ll see. He’ll get in there again at some point. Right now [it’s] off the bench,” Boone said of Hicks on Aug. 19. “Each and every day’s a little bit different. We’re trying to do all we can right now to win ballgames and he needs to find a way to be a part of that too.”

Boone added: “It can change on a dime. Not playing today, that can change in 24 hours, just from circumstances, taking advantage of opportunities, competition, et cetera. And all of a sudden, you think you’re at a low point right now, but you could find yourself as the central figure in the most important game of the year moving forward. So baseball has a way of changing on a dime. His job right now is to prepare, be ready and try and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.”

For now,  Hicks has to settle for getting his work in behind the scenes and hoping to produce when the opportunity arises.

“Pretty much just spending most of my time in the cages, working on stuff, really trying to fine-tune my swing and figure out ways to get back to hitting the ball solid," he said. "I've just really been working on trying to hit the ball up the middle more, hit line drives up the middle and try to get the ball off the ground on the pull side.”

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