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Updated: January 15th, 2013 10:23pm
Ron Gardenhire told Terry Ryan he wants Aaron Hicks to have shot in CF

Ron Gardenhire told Terry Ryan he wants Aaron Hicks to have shot in CF

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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1/14/2013
Talkin' Twins - Mon, Jan 14 - With Twins manager Ron Gardenhire
Tom Pelissero and Phil Mackey catch up with Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire in this week's edition of "Talkin' Twins".
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Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan didn't enter the offseason planning to trade both Denard Span and Ben Revere.

But when the possibility arose that both could be dealt, manager Ron Gardenhire was adamant about one thing:

If the centerfield job were to open up, Aaron Hicks deserves a legitimate shot to take it.

"You know that (Darin Mastroianni) can probably do it," Gardenhire said on 1500 ESPN's Talkin' Twins Show Monday night. "But as I told Terry, when all these things were going on -- Span and then Revere -- we talked about it, if he trades this guy, what are you going to do here? ... If he trades both of them, what are you going to do?

"The one thing I asked Terry, I just want to make sure that Aaron Hicks has the opportunity to come into spring training -- if we trade Span, and we end up trading Revere too, and this was (said) way before (those trades) -- I said I want the opportunity to give him a shot at my centerfield job."

Hicks, who turned 23 in October, was the 14th overall pick out of high school in the 2008 draft, and he ranked as high as 19th on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list in 2010.

A sub-par season at High-A Fort Myers in 2011 had people around the league and in the Twins' organization wondering if he'd ever live up to the potential. But Hicks enjoyed a breakout season at Double-A New Britain last year, hitting .286/.384/.460 with 13 home runs, 11 triples, 21 doubles, 100 runs and 32 stolen bases.

Hicks, a switch-hitter, also improved from the left side of the plate, which has been a weakness at times.

"This kid can run it down, he's got a cannon, he's a very talented kid, he had a heck of a year at Double-A," Gardenhire said. "Who knows if he's ready offensively? But I don't want to go into spring training saying he has no chance to be here, he's not ready for this. I want to see what he can do... I think we've got to give him a really solid look here."

The veteran Mastroianni would seem to have the inside track over Hicks, who has yet to play an inning above Double-A, and Joe Benson, who fell off the map last year due to poor performance and injuries.

It's also possible the front office could want to delay Hicks' service time clock a month or two by starting him off at Triple-A Rochester.

The Twins have called players up directly from Double-A in recent years, most notably Chris Parmelee, who tore the cover off the ball in September, 2011 upon his call-up.

Even if Hicks doesn't break camp on the 25-man roster, it's likely he'll stick around until final cuts, barring a disastrous performance in early March.

"Early in spring training, who knows what kind of pitching you're going to be facing?" Gardenhire said. "You may face a starter, then you're going to face guys who are minor league invites and all those things. But as you go along in spring, the longer you keep him there, you're going to see starters going five and six innings. That's when you'll see how he's going to stack up against pitchers that know how to throw the ball, know how to set hitters up.

"I think those are the things we'll look for... whether offensively he's going to be able to handle some of those things, whether he's ready for it. From what I was told, Double-A -- which is a pretty good level, a pretty good indicator; you have some success there, that's a pretty good level for the big leagues, and hopefully that will be enough and we'll see what happens with him."

Blackburn under the knife again

Nick Blackburn's nightmare stretch continues.

The right-hander is set to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right wrist on Wednesday at Mayo Clinic and will be in a cast for six weeks.

Blackburn, who will make $5.5 million next season despite no longer being on the 40-man roster, also underwent minor elbow surgery in October.

Blackburn posted a 7.39 ERA while allowing 23 home runs in just 98 2/3 innings last season.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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