The identity of the Yankees’ starting right fielder whenever the next game is played is unknown, but the man in the middle of the outfield says he will be ready to chase fly balls in the gaps and deny base runners from taking an extra base.
Aaron Hicks was asked Friday, if the season were to start late next month, whether his surgically repaired right elbow would allow him to participate.
“I would be ready to play,’’ Hicks told The Post by phone from Tampa, where he has been hitting and throwing at George M. Steinbrenner Field for the past few weeks. “The plan was July to see where I am at and ready to play games. For me, I want to be back to the arm strength I had before.’’
Hicks, who had Tommy John surgery after the Yankees were eliminated from the ALCS by the Astros last October, estimated his arm strength to be at 80 percent and improving.
“I am doing really well. I am up to 160 feet throwing, taking BP on the field and doing defensive work,’’ said Hicks, who was limited to 59 games a year ago due to a lower-back problem that surfaced in spring training and a strained right flexor injury in early August. “I get better and better [throwing] every day and every week. The throwing gets stronger. It is definitely coming. It comes in its own ways when it wants to. I am not too far off. I will throw to bases coming up here pretty soon, think next week. My arm feels great.’’
The switch-hitting Hicks has been taking batting practice for two months with no problems outside of “trying to figure out hitting again.’’
In addition to the quarantine forced by the coronavirus pandemic, the 30-year-old Hicks welcomed son Jaylen into the world on May 6 and has been in Tampa for two weeks.
With the emphasis on safety and health the small number of Yankees working out at Steinbrenner Field are divided into groups of four and staggered. And since Hicks isn’t in Aaron Judge’s group, Hicks didn’t have an update on what the right fielder is doing while coming back from a fractured top right rib that was discovered in spring training and believed to have happened diving for a ball last September.
As for a 60- or 70-game schedule, Hicks was asked about the challenge of a dash instead of the playing the normal 162-game grind.
Submit your Yankees questions to be answered in an upcoming mailbag
“As a starter you have to know that you are going to have to play every single game because there is no time,’’ said Hicks, who Aaron Boone will likely be careful with since he also has Brett Gardner and Mike Tauchman to play center. “Anything can happen in a 60-game season.
“You have to come out fast and you have to come out strong. You have to create separation between you and the other teams.’’
Placed on the injured list with that strain of his right flexor muscle in early August, Hicks felt good enough throwing that he made it back for the Astros’ series and started Games 3, 4, 5 and 6 in center field despite not having played previously since Aug. 3. In those four postseason games Hicks batted .154 (2-for-17) with a homer and 17 RBIs.
Asked if he regretted coming back, which might have led to requiring Tommy John surgery, Hicks said being available for the Yankees carried the day.
“I had a feeling that I was going to have to get surgery so I don’t regret it at all. I felt like the decision I made was for my team. I feel like my team is stronger with me in the outfield,’’ said Hicks, who is in the second leg of a seven-year deal worth $70 million.
Having been on the injured list 11 times since breaking into the big leagues in 2013 with the Twins, Hicks said he knows when his body is ready to play.
“Suck up the pain for a couple of games, that was fine with me,” he said. “I felt like it was something I needed to do.’’