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Updated: May 15th, 2014 12:57am
Wetmore: Twins tell Aaron Hicks he needs to be better prepared to play

Wetmore: Twins tell Aaron Hicks he needs to be better prepared to play

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by Derek Wetmore
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Aaron Hicks hasn't shown he can hit Major League pitching. And, understandably, the Twins want more out of their former first-round pick.

Looking more like a bust than a future lineup cog, the Twins are challenging the young switch-hitting centerfielder.  He needs to be more prepared to play, the Twins say. Perhaps he has to take the game more seriously.

Is 400 plate appearances too soon to label the toolsy outfielder a bust? Yes.

Is a .185/.270/.315 career batting line acceptable? Not even close.

"We had a long talk yesterday just about baseball. About picking it up," manager Ron Gardenhire said Wednesday. "This game, no matter how you want to say it ... it's still about numbers, ultimately."

Some hitters have a plan at the plate. Hicks looks lost at times, almost as if his only goal is to coax a walk. Drawing walks and avoiding outs is great, but it must be coupled with an ability to hit. Otherwise you wind up with a .270 OBP in more than 400 MLB plate appearances.

"I think as much as anything he needs to know who's pitching the next day," assistant GM Rob Antony said. "When you show up at the ballpark knowing who you're facing, what you're trying to accomplish, what your approach is going to be, rather than coming in, looking at the board and asking who's pitching that day."

That's a troubling revelation.

It's not because Hicks doesn't care, Antony insisted, but the results haven't been there for him.

Tuesday's meeting, however, wasn't the first time he's been encouraged to put in more work preparing for games.

"It's not the first time it's been told to him. There's been lots of people telling him," Gardenhire said. "Because he's a laid-back dude. So we've got to get some of the laid back out, get him to study the game a little bit. It'll help him."

What will help him will help the Twins. If they had any other serviceable option in center field, it's likely Hicks would already be in the minors.

Antony said he doesn't have a problem with Hicks' laid-back personality, and that sometimes that attitude can be misinterpreted as not caring.

"He's got to get some hits or he'll go nuts," Gardenhire said. "If it's studying the game a little bit more, studying the pitchers a little bit more, little extra work in the outfield, doing drills in the outfield. Improving your whole game. The way you come to the ballpark and your approach to [playing], that's what's going to make him better."

Hicks went 1-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk Wednesday, after drawing the start against lefty Felix Doubront. To his credit, Gardenhire said, Hicks did batting cage work, outfield work and some video study Wednesday, a day after the meeting. That should be the expectation.

"All those things, that's what's going to make you a player. Talent, you can't just throw your talent out there and say, 'I can do this,'" Gardenhire said. "Can't have it. "

The Twins hope better preparation and a refined approach at the plate will improve his anemic offensive numbers. Hicks has in his arsenal a couple physical attributes worthy of being a Major Leaguer, notably his strong arm and good speed.

If he can't hit, the rest doesn't matter.

Derek Wetmore is the senior editor for 1500ESPN.com. His previous stops include MLB.com and the Minnesota Daily.
Email Derek | @DerekWetmore
In this story: Ron Gardenhire
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