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Updated: January 26th, 2013 12:30pm
Notebook: Hicks sees golden opportunity; Mauer wants to catch more

Notebook: Hicks sees golden opportunity; Mauer wants to catch more

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- At TwinsFest last winter, minor league outfielder Aaron Hicks was lamenting the fact that he was not given an invite to major league spring training by Minnesota Twins brass.

One year later, not only is Hicks invited to major league camp -- which opens in three weeks -- he's been given a clear path to take over as the Twins' starting centerfielder after the departures of Denard Span and Ben Revere.

"For me, it was kind of like seeing friends go away," Hicks said Friday at the Twins media luncheon. "Those guys I've been with for a while. I mean, they've been in the big leagues, but I still keep in touch with them. ...

"It's tough to see them go, but at the same time, an opportunity like that you can't just pass up. That's why I'm working hard in the offseason and trying to make it hard on (decision-makers)."

Hicks already has one important man in his corner -- manager Ron Gardenhire, who went to general manager Terry Ryan earlier this offseason and said he wanted assurance that Hicks would have a fair chance to earn the starting centerfield job if Span and Revere were both traded.

"It feels good that the manager thinks I have a chance," Hicks said.

Hicks is a legacy centerfielder by Twins standards. His mentor was Span, Span's mentor was Torii Hunter, and Hunter's mentor was Kirby Puckett. Revere fell in that same chain.

"Denard's been patrolling that outfield for a while," Hicks said. "It's kind of tough seeing a guy that's kind of like my mentor just leave before I get up there. It's kind of a shock."

After falling out of Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list, Hicks -- drafted by the Twins with the 14th overall pick in 2008 -- followed up with a breakout season for Double-A New Britain, hitting .286/.384/.460 with 45 extra-base hits, 100 runs scored and 32 stolen bases in 129 games.

Hicks then played 16 games in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason, where he mostly struggled to a .204/.306/.296 batting line, but his overall body of work over the last calendar year has been impressive enough to warrant a possible promotion from Double-A straight to the big leagues.

Mauer wants to catch more

Joe Mauer told 1500 ESPN's Talkin' Twins show earlier this week that he is preparing this offseason as if he will catch somewhere around 120 games in 2013. Mauer said he feels like the Twins are a better team with him behind the plate, which is mostly true.

The only problem with playing Mauer behind the plate more often -- he caught 74 games last year -- is that came to the plate a career-high 641 times in 2012. He likely doesn't bat that often if he isn't mixing in frequently at first base and DH.

It's also worth noting Mauer's defensive numbers dropped off significantly last year. He threw out only 14% of potential base stealers (9 of 65), which is down significantly from his best year in 2007 when he gunned down 53%.

In fairness, all Twins catchers saw a decrease in their caught stealing numbers, due in large part to Twins pitchers not being able to hold runners close to first base.

With Drew Butera set to make $700,000 next season, it's very possible the Twins could carry three catchers once again.

Quick hits

• Gardenhire missed the Diamond Awards on Thursday night due to the death of a friend's father. He made his way back from Oklahoma on Friday and is in Minneapolis for TwinsFest.

• According to Ryan, Pedro Florimon is "the athlete you look for" at shortstop. Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar will "push him," but the job appears to be Florimon's to lose due to his slick defensive abilities. According to plus/minus fielding data, Florimon was rated among the best defensive shortstops in baseball last year. Second base is likely a battle between Dozier and Jamey Carroll.

• Ryan says he expects to take 66 players to big-league camp, which is more than in past years because the Twins expect to lose about 11 to the World Baseball Classic.

• Target Field seating capacity now officially will be approximately 39,000, down from ~39,500 because of the right-field renovation.

• The Twins will have four nationally televised games on FOX, plus 150 locally on FOX Sports North. That means eight games could potentially not be televised in 2013, although it's possible FSN picks those games up eventually.

Tom Pelissero contributed to this report

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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