Today is April 24. April 1 was 23 days ago. April 1 was the day Aaron Hicks was initially expected to return to the Yankees lineup from his back injury.
Hicks hurt his back in spring training … riding a bus … for 35 minutes. That’s right, Hicks originally got hurt on February 27 riding the team bus from Tampa to Lakeland for a spring training game.
“I got off the bus and it felt tight; I couldn’t swing,” Hicks said back in spring training. “Came back the next day and it was still tight … [then] played the night game two days later, and that’s kind of where I knew something was wrong.”
On March 1, the stiffness was still present in his lower back while taking batting practice before a game, so the Yankees shut him down. Ten days later on March 11, he received a cortisone shot to help with the pain.
Five days after the cortisone shot, while doing rotational activity exercises on March 16, Hicks complained of the same back stiffness. The following day (March 17), Hicks received a second cortisone shot.
“The first one definitely hit the spot, for sure. I made really big gains on that one,” Hicks said after the second cortisone shot. “The second one, I just feel like it was a little bit more to the left and it needs to be tended to. That was to knock it fully out.”
Despite Hicks not having played in a game in what was now over two weeks, Aaron Boone believes his center fielder could be capable of being in the lineup at the start of the season.
“I think he physically probably will be ready [for Opening Day],” Boone said even after the second cortisone shot. “We don’t think it’s going to be a long time for Hicks.”
The day of the second cortisone shot, Hicks tells reporters he won’t be playing in the opening series against Orioles (March 28-31), but expects to be in the lineup for the second series of the series against the Tigers on April 1.
Boone recognizes Hicks will have to begin the season on the injured list, but doesn’t think it will be a full 10-day stint.
“He could avoid a full [injured list] stay at the big league level because obviously we can backdate him,” Boone said. “He’ll start on the [injured list].”
Prior to the start of the first game of the season, the Yankees officially announce Hicks is being placed on the 10-day injured list.
On April 5 in Baltimore, Boone gives an update on Hicks.
“[Thursday] I believe he is starting baseball activities. He will be throwing [Thursday],” Boone said, “It’s been about a week or so where he has been feeling really well coming in every day.”
Boone then goes on to say he doesn’t think Hicks will need a full six-week spring training to get back, the same way he originally said he wouldn’t need a full 10-day injured list stint.
“I don’t think it will be six weeks, but he has to get some at-bats,”Boone said. “And once he gets back to the point where he is playing in [minor league] games, it’s not going to be just five or 10 games. He is going to have to play some and get built back up.”
On April 14, Hicks appears at Yankee Stadium. He’s in New York to take care of paperwork for his apartment and provides an update on his status.
“Hitting was a problem for me,” Hicks said before watching the Yankees lose to the White Sox. “Every time I hit [during rehab] was when it would start to fire up and start to be painful. The fact I’m moving forward past that is good.”
Hicks started tee-and-toss two days prior, finally swinging a bat for the first time in a month.
“I’ve been really testing it hard in the cage,” he said. “Putting my A swings into it to make sure it’s game-like.”
Boone, who originally estimated Hicks would return on April 1 was no longer willing to give a return date.
“Timeframe? I don’t know yet, “Boone said. “All I know is he’s doing really well. He seems to be completely healthy.”
Boone then goes on to say Hicks has been past the injury for a couple weeks, causing many to wonder why he is just now beginning to swing a bat.
“It’s been a couple weeks now, at least, where we feel he’s completely past the injury,” Boone said. “The ramp-up has just been a little slow.”
Two days later, on April 16, Hicks hits off a tee and throws on the field before the Yankees’ 8-0 win over the Red Sox.
“I took some really good swings today,” Hicks said, “Striking the ball good.”
Hicks says he expects to start taking batting practice the next day, or the day after that, but no one is sure when he will actually take batting practice.
“I thought I would miss a couple of [spring training] games,” Hicks added. “Obviously, that didn’t happen.
No, obviously it didn’t happen. It’s now been a week since Hicks expected to soon be taking practice and nearly two months since he first felt lower back stiffness following a 35-minute bus ride. We’re almost three weeks from when Boone said Hicks wouldn’t need a six-week spring training and no one is sure when he will play in a rehab game.
While this entire injured list stint has been a debacle because of the botched timetables provided by Hicks, Boone and the organization, the injury itself is nothing new when it comes to Hicks. His entire career has been marred by disabled and injured list trips for just about every conceivable non-surgery baseball injury.
In 2016, his first season with the Yankees, Hicks missed time due to shoulder bursitis and a hamstring strain, playing in 123 games.
In 2017, he played in only 88 games, going on the disabled twice, once for a right oblique strain and once for a left oblique strain.
In 2018, he got hurt on Opening Day and after one game was on the disabled list with a strained right intercostal muscle. He ended up playing in a career-high 137 regular-season games before once again getting hurt in the postseason and missing two of the four games in the ALDS.
Add in the 22 games Hicks has already missed this season and as a Yankee he’s played in just 348 of a possible 508 regular-season games, or 68.5 percent.
Hicks is going to be a Yankee for the foreseeable future after being extended through 2025 back on Feb. 25 — two days before the historic 35-minute bus ride — with a club option for the 2026 season.
Now 29, having spent his 20s trying to become an everyday major leaguer and then trying to stay off the disabled and injured list once he became one. He was successful at the former and miserably unsuccessful at the latter.
The Yankees have Hicks through at least his age 35 season, and it’s going to take a miracle for him to avoid missing so many games on the other side of 30 the way he has in his prime.
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