Hicks named Opening Day starting center fielder

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The starting center-fielder competition is over for the Twins.

Aaron Hicks, who has yet to play above Double-A New Britain, will be Minnesota’s center fielder and leadoff hitter come Opening Day on April 1 against the Tigers at Target Field, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire announced Sunday.

Hicks, who went 4-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI against the Blue Jays on Sunday, won the battle over Darin Mastroianni and Joe Benson. Mastroianni is expected to be the club’s fourth outfielder while Benson was optioned to Triple-A Rochester on Friday.

“I think it’s pretty simple to say Hicks is going to be our center fielder,” Gardenhire said. “I don’t think it’s a shocking announcement by any means.”

Hicks, 23, has been impressive this spring, as he’s hitting .350/.397/.650 with a team-high four homers, 16 RBIs, 16 runs and three stolen bases. He hit five homers in a three-game stretch earlier this month, including three in a game against the Phillies in Clearwater and one against Team Puerto Rico in an exhibition game.

“It feels great,” Hicks said. “It’s everything I’ve been working for since I started playing baseball. So it just feels really good to be named center fielder.”

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