It has been a mostly miserable season at the plate for Aaron Hicks.
And indications are, for now, the outfielder is going to have fewer in-game opportunities to get himself on track.
Outfield prospect Estevan Florial, brought up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday, got his second straight start in centerfield Thursday night as the Yankees started a four-game series against the Blue Jays at the Stadium.
“We’ve talked about it,” Aaron Boone said of recent conversations he’s had with Hicks. “There’s going to be some opportunities for other guys. He understands that.”
Hicks is hitting .217 with six homers, 32 RBIs and a .642 OPS in 103 games. He has five hits in his last 57 at-bats.
As bad as things have been for the switch-hitting Hicks, Boone delivered this message as well.
“It can change on a dime,” he said of playing time, whether it be Hicks’ or anyone else’s. “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.”
Spencer Jones has heard the comparisons dating to his high school days, and the Yankees’ 2022 first-round pick doesn’t mind them in the least.
“I think it’s cool more than anything else,” said Jones, a 6-7 outfielder who has been compared to Judge because of his size and position.
“I’m really excited to eventually meet him at some point,” Jones said late Thursday morning on a conference call. “I’ve heard great things about his personality and him as a teammate and as a great leader. I’m excited to get to know him and learn from him as much as I possibly can.”
The Yankees selected the 22-year-old Jones 25th overall. In his first six games with Class A Tampa, Jones was 6-for-21 (.286) with one homer.
DJ LeMahieu, who did not start the previous three games because of discomfort in his right big toe, was back in the lineup Thursday. He started at second base, batted leadoff and went 2-for-5 (he also committed a key error).
“It lengthens it,” Boone said of the impact of LeMahieu’s return to the lineup. “It’s just another great offensive player and the trickle [down] of that is it makes the lineup deeper.”
Giancarlo Stanton, on the injured list since July 24 with left Achilles tendinitis, was slated to go through another full pregame workout Thursday. Boone said “if that goes well,” Stanton could be sent out on a rehab assignment “this weekend, possibly even [Friday].”
The Yankees (49-16) were nine games ahead of the Astros (40-25) on June 18. Since then, Houston has gone 37-18 to the Yankees' 24-30 to move 3 1/2 games ahead in the battle for the American League's best record.
The Yankees moved a season-high 38 games over .500 at 61-23 on July 8 and held a 15 1/2-game lead over the second-place Rays. Since then, they have gone 12-23 and now lead the Rays and Blue Jays by nine games.