Minneapolis — Wednesday was John Hicks’ 21st consecutive start at first base this month. He came in hitting .316 with a .361 on-base percentage, and slugging .513 with three home runs and 13 RBIs.
“He’s been a savior at first base for us,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.
A temporary savior, though, apparently. Because Gardenhire didn’t equivocate about what will happen when Miguel Cabrera gets back off the disabled list.
“It’s going to go back to the way it was,” Gardenhire said. “He’s the backup catcher and we will try to get him as many at-bats as we can. Miggy is going to be the first baseman here, we all know that. Hicksy has been playing well, he’s been great.
“But we know who our first baseman is here. And (James) McCann is our catcher. Hicksy made this team as the backup catcher. So we’ll have to try to get him as many at-bats as we can.”
There is no timetable for Cabrera’s return. He’s begun hitting more aggressively in batting practice. But he has yet to do any of the running and agility drills — tests he will have to pass before he is activated.
Most likely, when Cabrera returns, catcher Grayson Greiner will be optioned back to Toledo, which creates another hurdle for getting Hicks at-bats. With Greiner gone, the Tigers will be back to having just two catchers, so Gardenhire will be reluctant to use Hicks as the designated hitter to spell Victor Martinez.
He won’t want to have both his catchers in the game at the same time, in case something should happen to McCann.
So, like Greiner is now, Hicks will be relegated to pinch-hitting and spot starts at catcher and possibly first base.
“I deal with these things as they come,” Gardenhire said. “Because there are no easy answers.”