Aaron Hicks’ chances of returning for the postseason were written off by just about everyone but the center fielder after he was shut down from his throwing program last month.
But there was Hicks in center field during the Yankees’ workout in The Bronx on Thursday, now a legitimate option to make the ALCS roster despite not having played since Aug. 3 due to a right elbow flexor strain.
“Obviously, as good a player as he is, that’s exciting,’’ Aaron Boone said of the possibility of Hicks being an option. “So we’ll have some tough decisions here over the next 24 hours as we work this out, what kind of makes the most sense and we’ll try and make a sound one. But he’s put himself in that conversation.’’
How Hicks got there isn’t typical.
After getting a second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache in California last month, Hicks was advised to take more time off.
Instead, Hicks quickly started throwing again at his home outside Phoenix “despite the recommendations,’’ according to GM Brian Cashman.
“He tried it again and felt like he had success,’’ Cashman said. “Everything is about his tolerance. The initial throwing program he was on he was not tolerating. He started throwing behind the scenes without our knowledge and he called in and said, ‘This feels good.’ If that’s the case get him into Tampa.’’
Hicks said he would have rather blown out his arm than just sit and wait.
“I was just at home, just kind of sitting on the couch, thinking about what I kind of just heard about getting Tommy John [surgery] or waiting four weeks to kind of see how it goes,’’ Hicks said.
Hicks said he was “just messing around in the backyard with my buddies, went to hit in the cage” and decided his arm felt good enough to test it out.
And he was encouraged by the results.
“I started playing a little light catch,’’ Hicks said. “I’d rather, if it’s gonna go, just go. I don’t want any in-between of now it heals, just come back in the same situation. If it’s gonna go, just go. And it actually started going well.”
After two days of throwing without pain, Hicks reached out to Yankees personnel, understanding the risk.
“I sent a video to everybody over here to kind of see what they thought about me throwing when I’m not supposed to throw,’’ Hicks said. “From then on, they were like, ‘all right, you feel good? Go ahead to Tampa and get things going there.’ The throwing’s been great since.”
Now the Yankees have to determine what they’re going to do about this unforeseen development.
“I would say he could potentially be a starter, be off the bench, not be on [the roster],’’ Boone said. “I mean, I think they’re all legitimately things we’ve got to consider and what makes the most sense for us.’’
Against Minnesota in the ALDS, Boone went the same lineup all three games.
If Hicks finds his way into a starting spot, they’ll have to make a significant change — perhaps moving Brett Gardner from center to left, which would push Giancarlo Stanton to DH and Edwin Encarnacion to first base. DJ LeMahieu took grounders at third during Thursday’s workout, so he could move from first to third, with Gio Urshela to the bench.
Additionally, Cameron Maybin or Tyler Wade could be bumped from the roster in the next round.
And the Yankees have to decide that Hicks is not only healthy enough to play, but sharp enough to contribute after not having played in a game for more than two months.
“The good thing is that he’s put himself in this position to make a decision,” Boone said.