It appears that Aaron Hicks has won the battles for the Minnesota Twins‘ starting leadoff and center fielder spots for Opening Day, after serving as somewhat of a front-runner for the jobs these past few weeks.
The 14th overall pick in 2008 had seemed to have the inside track with skipper Ron Gardenhire and the Twins organization alike, with Hicks fighting off Darin Mastroianni and Joe Benson with a .302 batting average this spring.
The move has not yet been made official, but is now extremely likely following the Twins’ demotion of remaining competitor Benson to Triple-A, as reported by Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
“We’re not anointing anybody right now, but I think we’ve all seen with our eyes Hicksy can do this,” Gardenhire said.
“[Benson] can bring a lot to the table. I’m talking he can be a starting major league baseball player. I’m not talking about a bench player; this guy can be a starter if he gets back all of everything he had before he got hurt (in 2012). He looked really good this spring.”
Benson struggled in spring training, only notching a .151 batting average and .286 on-base percentage.
Denard Span had occupied the Twins’ center fielder and leadoff-hitter spots from 2008 to 2012, batting .284 for over his tenure with the team, but was traded to the Washington Nationals in November to acquire starting pitcher Alex Meyer.