Thursday, February 28, 2013

Take and rake: Hicks and Benson

Aaron Hicks greets Ryan Doumit at home plate
after Doumit's fourth-inning home run Wednesday.
My Monday print column was partly, maybe mostly, about the importance of plate discipline in some of the Twins spring training competitions. Two of the players mentioned specifically were Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson.

Hicks appears this spring to be living up to his minor league reputation as a patient hitter. The radio boys on Wednesday (Corey Provus and Dick Bremer; no Dan Gladden for a few days, apparently) repeatedly praised his fourth inning at-bat, in which he fell behind 0-2, fouled some pitches off, worked the count to 2-2 and then lashed a double.

Deep counts leading to walks or well-struck balls have been fairly frequent for Hicks, an indication that he's not becoming impatient now that he has an opportunity to win a big-league job. And that's very much a point in his favor.

Benson's track record is the opposite -- few walks, plenty of strikeouts. On Tuesday, Benson homered in his first time up, then drew a walk the next time up. So far, so good, right? Then he struck out the next three times.

Benson entered Wednesday's game about halfway through and came up twice -- and drew two walks.

In a game in which the Twins had 17 hits and 12 runs, Benson's walks are easy to overlook. And three walks in two games isn't proof of anything, any more than three hits would have been. But considering how much his poor plate discipline has hamstrung Benson's rise, it's a good sign.

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