Aaron Hicks
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

Aaron Hicks has officially returned to the lineup for the New York Yankees but the Bombers still have reason for concern.

Allison Case

Aaron Hicks is now a household name in the Bronx. The New York Yankees center fielder just signed a seven-year extension, meaning he’ll be patrolling the outfield for many years to come.

After a brief stint on the IL early this season, Hicks officially returned for his first game action on May 15 against the Baltimore Orioles and the Yankees couldn’t have been more thankful.

Finally, they have the option to mix up the lineup and throw in a power lefty bat on occasion. They gained one of the finest center fielders in the game to help shore up the outfield in Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton’s absences.

But while his return is much celebrated, just the first few games have given the New York Yankees some reason for concern. Yes, it will take time for him to get his timing and rhythm back at the plate; however, the Yankees should be more concerned about his defense.

Hicks was sidelined due to a lower back strain and spent significant time rehabbing it. But when he returned to the field in the middle of May, it looked like his legs were the part of his body he was recovering from injury.

Although the Yankees were pleased with his first home run of the season in their blowout win over Tampa Bay and his game-winning walk with the bases loaded (including the bat flip), there were a couple of moments of concern.

For example, the primary one was during the May 23 contest in Baltimore. In the bottom of the third inning with Dwight Smith Jr. up to bat, Hicks got a deep fly ball to center, which he misread.

After the initial misread, Hicks jogged towards the ball that would be an easy double. Instead, Smith Jr. took advantage of that and stretched it to a triple.

After all the hype the Yankees have given to Hicks as their starting center fielder, this was disappointing to see. Sure, he’s just returning from injury, but the attitude towards this play was unacceptable and concerning.

Hicks has always done everything in his power to hustle in the outfield but this was a poor example and one of the first times we’ve been disappointed in his play. Naturally, it is a lesson that should be learned but he also could be feeling some fatigue early on in the season after not playing for a while.

And this wasn’t the first time he’s done it this season. In fact, earlier in that same game he jogged to another hit.

With all the talk surrounding Robinson Cano just a borough away, hustle is an incredibly important part of the game. Although Hicks has done this just a couple of times, it can’t become a habit.

The Yankees signed him to an extension due to their confidence in his hustle and play out in center field. They gave him an extension because of that faith in his play in the outfield. Hopefully, it’s just a sign of slowly getting back into the game and come June, he’ll be back to the Aaron Hicks we expect in the outfield.

The other alternative could be that Hicks simply isn’t fully healthy just yet and that is something we don’t even want to consider right now.

Either way, the Yankees better keep a careful eye on him. If he’s not fully healthy, they better discover that sooner rather than later. If he is and is just taking it easy, they need to get on his back to hustle or show him that his spot isn’t guaranteed, especially since Brett Gardner held it down for the entire month of April.

While we can have an excuse for the .192 batting average, there is no excuse for not hustling. The Yankees need to make sure Aaron Hicks is truly ready to go because they need him at 100 percent to make an impact for the rest of this season.

Allison is just a girl with an enormous passion for the game of baseball and the written word. Based in Upstate New York, her life-long relationship with the New York Yankees is something that she developed through close relationships with her mother and grandfather. An aspiring sports writer, she graduated with a journalism degree and is finding places to share her excitement about the sporting world and how it affects us all.