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Hicks collects career-high five hits
Twins prospect homers, plates pair in New Britain's big win
07/25/2012 5:45 PM ET
Hicks has already set his single-season career high in homers, with 10.
Hicks has already set his single-season career high in homers, with 10. (Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)
New Britain designated hitter -- and MLB.com's No. 59 prospect -- Aaron Hicks indulged himself on Wednesday afternoon. A triple shy of completing the cycle in his sixth and final at-bat, Hicks did what patient hitters don't -- he went for it.

"I was trying to hook something down the line," he admitted. "I was looking at the fence, but I ended up rolling over [to second base] and getting out."

No harm. Hicks can leave that achievement for another day. He reached two others on this one.

The Twins' No. 2 prospect collected a career-best five hits, inclluding his single-season high 10th homer in the Rock Cats' 11-2 win over the visiting Binghamton Mets.

Leading off and resting his legs as DH, Hicks doubled and singled twice in four innings against B-Mets starter Zack Wheeler. New York's top-ranked prospect didn't come out for the fifth after yielding six runs on 10 hits, including a two-run double to Minnesota's No. 4 prospect, right fielder Oswaldo Arcia.

What was the key to success against Wheeler (9-6)?

"Stay aggressive toward his fastball and try to make him throw off-speed," said Hicks, who hit two fastballs and a changeup in his three meetings with the right-hander.

The switch-hitting Hicks then slugged a two-run shot off righty reliever Edgar Ramirez in the fifth.

"First-pitch fastball up in the zone," he said.

Hicks, 22 and a native of Long Beach, Calif., also doubled off rehabbing Mets reliever Frank Francisco (left oblique strain) in the seventh before getting that final chance in the eighth.

"I can say I tried for it," he said of the triple, "but you can't try for it. It's got to come to you."

And that is the difference in Hicks' comeback at the plate this season: Not chasing bad pitches -- or trying to do too much with hittable ones -- while simultaneously not sacrificing his aggressiveness.

This fix -- no physical change to the mechanics of his swing -- is why his batting average has risen steadily over the last three months: .220 in May, .282 in June and .355 so far in July.

"Maturing as a hitter," Hicks said, "trying not to hit the longball and stay in the gaps."

As can be the case, his decision to not seek home runs has resulted in more of them. Through 93 games in this, his first season at Double-A, he has 10 to go along with 15 doubles and six triples. (There's also his plus defensive abilities in center field.)

"All I am trying to do is hit the ball hard," he said, sounding almost befuddled himself, "but they're going out of the stadiums."

As Minnesota's first-round pick in the 2008 Draft, he collected four knocks in a game twice before, most recently when he homered once and singled three times for Class A Beloit on April 24, 2010 at Wisconsin. The homer was one eight that season.

Wheeler has yielded 14 runs on 16 hits over 7 2/3 frames in his past two starts. That follows his first career complete game, a shutout of Erie on July 14.

Rock Cats starter B.J. Hermsen (7-5) gave up two runs on four hits over seven frames. He struck out eight against three walks.

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at AndrewMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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