Twins’ outfield controversy may be brewing after All-Star break

Updated: July 14, 2015
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In the midst of a playoff race, it’s questionable who will be slotted as the Minnesota Twins’ everyday center fielder when top prospect Byron Buxton returns from the disabled list.

On June 14, Buxton was promoted from Double-A Chattanooga after previous center fielder Aaron Hicks was placed on the 15-day DL.

During Buxton’s stint on the disabled list, Hicks was slotted back as the team’s primary center fielder since his return on July 3.

Even with the young prospect lurking, Hicks doesn’t feel the pressure of outperforming Buxton.

“For him, he’s always been the guy on every team, and once you get to the big leagues, everybody’s the guy.” Hicks said. “It’s all about being able to relax and just play this game.”

Even though he doesn’t control who goes on the lineup every day, Hicks said all he could control is his play on the diamond.

“Whatever happens after he comes back happens,” Hicks said. “As far as now, I’m going out there to play my game and try to help this team win.”

During his DL stint, Buxton doesn’t feel pressure to become the team’s everyday outfielder when he returns.

“Hicks is a great outfielder and a great person to be around,” Buxton said. “He’s been here a lot longer than I have, so I’m just trying to learn and do as much as I can and listen to him as much as I can. He’s a great person to able at all times and hopefully one day, we’ll be playing side-by-side together and running everything down.”

Buxton was originally projected to be sidelined four-to-six weeks when he was placed on the 15-day DL on June 25.

Coming into the season, Buxton was considered a top-three prospect in baseball, but has struggled at the plate hitting .189 in his first 11 games.

Meanwhile, Hicks has hit .266 with three home runs and nine RBI this season, but has been swinging a hot bat with a .417 average in his last eight games.

The former top-100 prospect has shown patience at the plate with seven walks and three strikes since his return.

Since Hicks was promoted to the majors for the first time in 2013, he has bounce between the minors and majors, as he hasn’t performed well as a major leaguer.

In his three-year career, the 25-year-old has hit for a .215 batting average with 12 home runs and 54 RBI in 188 games. During his time as prospect, Hicks showed flashes of his speed with 97 career stolen bases before he was promoted to the Twins’ roster in 2013.

Twins’ fans and the organization knows what they have in Hicks, but Buxton’s upside is higher and has been considered a five-tool player by Major League scouts.

Come Buxton’s activation from the disabled list, he would get a second chance of adjusting to big league pitching and only time will tell what kind of impact he and Hicks could make on the Twins for a potential playoff berth this season.

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