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Hicks Catches On With Twins



MINNEAPOLIS
—The moment was perfect—emotionally, professionally, even mathematically. John Hicks rounded first base and returned to the bag last Aug. 30, his first swing as a major league hitter having produced a line drive into short right field, when Mariners first base coach Chris Woodward reminded him of the math. "He said, ‘No one will ever hit better than you are now,’ " Hicks said. " ‘You’re batting 1.000.’ ”
Hicks can laugh at the memory, even though it took nearly a month­ (and 30 more plate appearances) before he collected another hit. His first taste of the majors ended with a .063/.091/.094 line in 17 games that Hicks says was nevertheless valuable and memorable, for the experience if not the results. The Twins don’t believe that five jittery weeks represent Hicks’ skill level. When Seattle designated the 26-year-old catcher for assignment in November after signing Chris Iannetta, the Twins were quick to file a claim. "His strength is his defense, but he’s no automatic out,” said Mike Radcliff, the Twins’ vice president for player personnel. "He’s hit doubles in the past, and he can drive the ball if he gets his pitch. His swing is sound, so we’re going to see how it develops.” Hicks joins a team that already has Kurt Suzuki as the incumbent and trade acquisition John Ryan Murphy presumed to be his heir. But Hicks’ defense gives the Twins three catchers that they believe they can trust at the major league level. "Mechanically, he’s about as efficient and consistent as you’ll see in a prospect at that level,” Radcliff said. Depth was the goal, Radcliff said—but keep that label away from Hicks. "You need depth as an organization, but I don’t like to apply that term to an individual player,” Radcliff said. "He’s a prospect. He could have a solid major league career, and it’s not fair to pigeon-hole him as just a ‘depth guy.’ ” TWIN KILLINGS • The Twins signed outfielder Carlos Quentin to a minor league contract. The injury-plagued Quentin hopes to make the major league roster, and can opt out on June 1 if he is sent to Rochester. • First baseman Kennys Vargas
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