The timing of this Aaron Hicks breakout makes perfect sense

One-hundred at-bats.

That’s how long Aaron Hicks gives himself to start feeling good at the plate each year. Most of them usually come during spring training.

But Hicks didn’t have that this year.

After signing a $70 million extension this offseason, Hicks missed a game early in the Grapefruit League. Then a few more. Then a cortisone shot, and a week or so later, a second cortisone shot. He missed Opening Day, then the first six weeks of the season. He didn’t return until May 15, didn’t cross that 100 at-bat benchmark until June 19. The day he did, Hicks went 0-for-3, bringing his season’s average to .198.

In his last 16 games, including Monday night’s 2-for-4 effort in the Yankees’ loss to the Rays, Hicks has hit .328 with a 1.026 OPS and four home runs — the kind of production the Yankees want from him in center field. Maybe there’s something to that mental baseline.

“Just feel like I’m just more in tune with the game,” Hicks said. “I’m starting to be on time now with my at-bats.”

Hicks explains that concept — being on time — as being able to navigate all the little intricacies that come with a major league at-bat. Looking for one pitch and being able to hit another. Laying off tough-to-hit pitches. Victory in the little battles of each pitch lead to winning the war.

In the spring, you can play around, because the result doesn’t matter. Not having that chance, he said, led to his issues earlier in the year.

“It allows you to be able to work on stuff,” Hicks said. “Allow yourself to get to two strikes and kinda try to battle from there. Work on hitting early in the count. Really just work on trying to hit fastballs up the middle. Stay on offspeed.”

Hicks has dealt with injuries throughout his career — a reality to which he attributes a historic inability to pick things up in the second half. “Always seems like when I’m hot, it’s when I start to get hurt,” he said. But since being with the Yankees, he hadn’t missed the start of a season — at least until 2019.

He played a career-high 137 games in 2018, and played well enough to get that extension afterward. It’s easier to be consistent when your body gives you a chance to do so.

“The kind of player I am started to come out, as far as production comes,” Hicks said.

The Yankees hope the same thing is happening this year.

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