Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks has been cleared to begin a throwing program, manager Aaron Boone told reporters Wednesday (Twitter links via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com). Boone didn’t provide a further timetable on Hicks, but it’s a notable step in the 30-year-old’s recovery from last October’s Tommy John surgery.
As MLBTR’s Connor Byrne noted when looking at how the postponing of Opening Day impacts the Yankees, Hicks’ recovery timetable was expected to be eight to 10 months, which would put him in line for a return anywhere from June until August. Depending on when (or if) the season is able to commence, it’s possible that Hicks could return to the lineup without having missed much time at all.
That’d be a notable boost for the Yankees; while many have lamented the seven-year, $70MM contract signed by Hicks immediately before back injuries caused him to begin the 2019 season on the IL (and before his elbow required surgery), it’s worth remembering just how strong Hicks’ 2017-18 seasons were. During that time, he slashed .255/.368/.470 with 42 home runs, 36 doubles, three triples and 21 steals through 942 plate appearances. In the field, he totaled 4 Defensive Runs Saved, a 5.7 Ultimate Zone Rating and was at least average, per Statcast’s OAA metric.
Boone also noted that lefty James Paxton, on the mend from back surgery, is continuing a throwing program at his Wisconsin home. All appears to be well on that front — or, at least, no setback or negative updates were provided — which bodes well for an on-target return to the mound. The Yankees announced he’d be sidelined three to four months when he underwent back surgery in February.
As for right fielder Aaron Judge, Boone offered little in terms of timeline but gave what’s sure to be a frustrating update for fans when he revealed that the slugger’s collapsed lung could date all the way back to a diving attempt in the outfield last September. “It’s probably something that’s impossible to know for sure, but I would believe that it’s all interrelated,” said Boone. Judge will be re-evaluated in a “few weeks” after his cracked rib has had more time to heal, tweets Brendan Kuty of the New Jersey Star-Ledger.