Perhaps the worst kept secret during spring training was that Aaron Hicks would be the Minnesota Twins' center fielder on opening day at Target Field against the Detroit Tigers. The biggest offseason question was who would fill that spot, and Hicks' excellent play answered it weeks ago even though it was just announced the final week of the Grapefruit League.
"It feels great," Hicks told the Star Tribune. "It's everything I've been working hard for ever since I have been playing baseball, so it just feels really good to be named center fielder.
The Twins had traded 2012 center fielders Denard Span and Ben Revere for young pitchers this offseason, and Hicks, Joe Benson and Darin Mastroianni competed for the job.
Hicks was ready for the competition. He caught everything that came at him in the outfield and was one of the top hitters on the team, hitting .370/.407/.644.
"I came here to compete for a job," Hicks said. "I came here to get the experience of just being up here in my first big-league camp. I feel like I'm trying to do the best I can to impress. I feel like I had a great spring training and I did everything I needed to win the job."
Hicks' ascension was not originally expected, as he is making the leap from Double-A in his first major-league camp. He caught the eye of many observers early on when he hit three home runs in one spring game.
But Hicks was no flash in the pan. According to his teammates, he has done his job all through camp and is developing into a decent leadoff hitter.
"I've been real impressed by him," catcher Joe Mauer told MLB.com. "For a young guy to take pitches and work at-bats is pretty impressive. I talked to him and told him taking pitches is going to help the guys behind him. He has a pretty good grasp on how to approach an at-bat."
For Hicks, it all begins April 1 at the Metrodome against the Detroit Tigers. If the jump to the majors has come too quickly, Hicks will get a chance to find out, as he will be the first Twins batter of the 2013 season.
"I'm impressed with Hicks," Twins first baseman Justin Morneau told the Star Tribune. "He handles himself well. He has a lot of confidence but is not overconfident."