FORT MYERS, Fla. — Aaron Hicks left the Minnesota Twins with little to debate: He’s their starting center fielder and leadoff hitter.
“I think it’s a pretty simple decision,” manager Ron Gardenhire said after Sunday’s 14-5 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. “Hicks is going to be our center fielder. I don’t think it’s a shocking announcement by any means.”
Hicks, who played at Double-A New Britain last year, went 4 for 4 and scored three runs while raising his batting average to .350.
Gardenhire told reporters in his office before breaking the news to Hicks. When did the manager plan to tell the 23-year-old Hicks?
“Maybe on the airplane,” Gardenhire joked, referring to the flight home for opening day.
In reality, Gardenhire pulled Hicks aside a few minutes later and gave him the news.
“It feels great to be named center fielder,” said Hicks, a first-round draft choice in 2008.
Hicks outplayed Joe Benson and Darin Mastroianni for the job. Hicks said he received advice from players such as former Twins outfielder Denard Span.
“Denard told me to relax and be yourself,” he said.
Hicks, who hit .271 in five minor league seasons, so impressed Gardenhire that the manager envisions him as a No. 3 hitter in the future.
“I’m just thankful to be the leadoff hitter,” said Hicks, who was in his first big league camp.
Gardenhire praised Hicks for his patience at the plate.
“He showed that he has the approach to be a leadoff hitter,” teammate Justin Morneau said.
Joe Mauer had a three-run homer and six RBIs, and Morneau hit a two-run drive that caromed off a palm tree behind the right-field wall.
Mauer homered to center in a four-run first off Dave Bush and hit a three-run double in the fourth that chased Guillermo Moscoso, who also allowed Morneau’s homer during the seven-run inning.
“We know what they mean to our lineup,” Gardenhire said.
Luis Jimenez homered twice and drove in four runs for the Blue Jays.
Twins starter P.J. Walters gave up three runs and four hits in three innings.
Yankees work to acquire Vernon Wells
TAMPA, Fla. — Vernon Wells might become the latest addition to the New York Yankees’ injury-depleted lineup.
As the Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-6 in 10 innings Sunday behind a pair of Kevin Youkilis home runs, New York was negotiating with the Los Angeles Angels to acquire the outfielder.
A person familiar with the negotiations, speaking on condition of anonymity because talks were ongoing, said the sides had not yet agreed to the money that would be included in a trade. Wells is owed $42 million over the next two seasons.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman declined comment. Before the game, Cashman said captain Derek Jeter was likely to join Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson on the disabled list at the start of the season.
Alonso hits 5th HR in 9 games
PEORIA, Ariz. — Yonder Alonso hit his fifth home run in his last nine games, helping the San Diego Padres defeat a Milwaukee Brewers’ split squad 6-4 Sunday.
Alonso was 2 for 4 and drove in three runs, raising his spring training total to 12 RBIs to go along with a .236 average (13 for 55).
Brewers starter Wily Peralta allowed six runs and 10 hits in 5 1-3 innings. San Diego’s Eric Stults gave up four runs on seven hits in six innings with four strikeouts and no walks.
Padres closer Huston Street pitched a perfect seventh inning, his seventh straight scoreless outing.
Red Sox get to Cliff Lee in 7-6 win
CLEARWATER, Fla. — Chase Utley and Ryan Howard hit back-to-back home runs for the second consecutive day, but rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. and the Boston Red Sox roughed up Cliff Lee in a 7-6 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday.
Bradley hit a three-run homer in the second inning and finished with four RBIs. He had a sacrifice fly in the third as Boston scored three more times off Lee, who was making his final start in Florida before the Phillies break camp later this week.
The ace left-hander allowed six runs — four earned — and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings. He struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter.
The 40th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Bradley is batting .423 (22 for 52) with two homers, four doubles and nine RBIs in 23 games this spring, his first in major league camp.
Harper, Espinosa lead Nationals over Braves 9-3
VIERA, Fla. — Bryce Harper scrapped the pad he had planned to wear on his swollen left thumb.
After missing a game because of the injury, Harper singled twice, doubled and stole two bases Sunday in the Washington Nationals’ rain-shortened 9-3 win over the Atlanta Braves.
Harper got hurt when he was jammed with a pitch Friday. He didn’t feel comfortable swinging with the pad.
“I can’t wear it,” he said. “I’ll wear it during BP and in the on-deck circle, but going to the plate … I don’t like the feeling.”
He singled in the first and third innings and doubled in the fifth, all against Kris Medlen.
“I didn’t really feel it,” Harper said. “It’s a case of squaring a ball up, and getting jammed. If you don’t get jammed, you’re not going to feel it and if you do, it’s going to look like a balloon.”
In a game called after seven innings because of bad weather, Danny Espinosa went 3 for 3 with a three-run homer.
There were 20 mph winds at the start and tornado warnings in the surrounding area later in the afternoon. Once the rain started, groundskeepers were able to get home plate and the pitching mound covered, but were not able to get the tarp on the infield, which had puddles.
“I felt like I was on a ship out there,” Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann said. “It’s definitely not very fun pitching in this weather.”
Zimmermann allowed three runs — one earned — and six hits in six innings with four strikeouts. He had retired 18 consecutive batters after giving up a leadoff single in his previous start and didn’t allow a hit through three innings against the Braves. He extended his streak of consecutive outs to 27 before Andrelton Simmons singled leading off the fourth.
Zimmermann threw more changeups than he had previously.
“It means I’m close,” he said. “To get 27 in a row means I’m doing something right. I feel good. I’m ready to go. I can’t wait for the season.”
Fister works into 5th inning as Tigers beat Mets 9-4
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Doug Fister did all he could to keep the ball in the park on a blustery day at Tradition Field.
Fister pitched into the fifth inning and Austin Jackson had two extra-base hits for the Detroit Tigers in a 9-4 victory over a New York Mets split squad Sunday.
Don Kelly hit a two-run homer off Mets reliever Brandon Lyon in a five-run seventh that gave Detroit a 9-2 lead. Jackson had an RBI triple in the inning to go with his run-scoring double in the fourth.
Matt Harvey went five innings for the Mets, allowing four runs — three earned — and five hits. Minor league center fielder Matt den Dekker broke his right wrist trying to make a leaping catch.
Fister, acquired from Seattle in 2011, has been fighting through a tough spring. He gave up two runs on four hits and four walks in 4 2-3 innings Sunday for his second Grapefruit League win.
With the wind blowing straight out to left field, he struck out four and lowered his ERA from 7.36 to 6.52.
“He’s a good big league pitcher. He takes the ball, he throws strikes, he keeps the game going. He keeps the infielders on their toes because he works fast and throws strikes,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “He was a terrific find for us, really. That trade has worked out terrific so far. We expect him to continue to be a good pitcher for us.”
Lyon’s rough outing began with a grounder that Omar Infante legged out for a double. Jackson then hit a wind-blown drive to center, and den Dekker nearly made a terrific catch. He had the ball momentarily but crashed hard at the base of the wall, landing awkwardly on his right wrist as Jackson pulled into third with a triple.
The Mets said X-rays revealed a broken right wrist for den Dekker, who was headed to New York. An upper-level minor leaguer with strong defensive skills, he made a highlight-reel catch earlier in the game.
“He nicked it up pretty good,” Mets manager Terry Collins said before the X-ray results came back. “I’m pretty concerned about it.”
Harvey opened the game by striking out Jackson, Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera. The AL champion Tigers, on a two-day swing to the east coast of Florida, brought their regulars on the trip.
Harvey finished with five strikeouts and three walks. In his final inning, he struck out Prince Fielder looking and induced a double-play ball off the bat of Victor Martinez after an error by shortstop Omar Quintanilla to open the inning.
“I was kind of feeling for everything today. Everything felt good, and I tried to do a little bit too much,” Harvey said.
He credited catcher John Buck with settling him down.
Cedeno triples after signing with Astros
KISSIMMEE, Fla. — The Houston Astros might have found their shortstop.
A few hours after signing a one-year contract Sunday, Ronny Cedeno tripled for the Astros in a 4-1 win over the Miami Marlins that was shortened to 4½ innings because of rain.
As they signed the 30-year-old Cedeno, the Astros informed shortstop Tyler Greene that he will not make the opening-day roster. That left Cedeno and 23-year-old Marwin Gonzalez to compete.
“It’s an opportunity at shortstop in this organization, and someone is going to have to prove to the staff that they deserve to play every day,” Houston manager Bo Porter said.
An eight-year veteran, Cedeno hit .259 in 78 games for the New York Mets last season. He was released March 19 by the St. Louis Cardinals, who opted to give him $282,787 in termination pay rather than keep his $1.15 million contract, which was not guaranteed.
Cedeno met with Porter early Sunday.
“He told me about what a great opportunity this is, and it’s going to be up to me how much I’m going to play,” Cedeno said. “He told me he watched me play when he was with Washington and he liked me. So now I’m very excited about this opportunity here. We’ve got a lot of young guys, a great group.”
General manager Jeff Luhnow called Cedeno a “veteran player at a position that will stabilize our infield.”
After the trade of Jed Lowrie to Oakland on Feb. 4, the Astros brought Greene and Gonzalez to spring training to compete for the shortstop job. Greene hit .167 in 42 at-bats and Gonzalez has played in only 80 big league games.