CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire praised center fielder Aaron Hicks before Sunday's game against the Phillies for his work defensively this spring and for improving on hitting the cutoff man, but Hicks ended up misfiring on two throws home in Minnesota's 5-1 loss.
Hicks threw wildly to home in the second inning trying get Marlon Byrd out on a sacrifice fly, which advanced Dominic Brown from second to third base. In the third, Hicks attempted to throw out Ben Revere at home as he attempted to advance from second on a single from Jimmy Rollins, which allowed Rollins to reach second.
Hicks later made a strong throw to get Brown at home in the third on a two-out single from Carlos Ruiz, but Gardenhire wants to see better decisions from Hicks.
"[Going] 1-for-3 is usually a good day, but not on throwing to the cutoff man," Gardenhire joked. "The first one he just launched one, and the second one he thought was OK, but it wasn't OK because the guy reached second.
"You're not throwing Ben Revere out. I don't care who you are. But the last one he kept the ball down. But it can't take three throws. We were already down ... ."
But Gardenhire still has liked what he's seen from Hicks, as he strongly hinted that Hicks will be the starting center fielder over Alex Presley come Opening Day on March 31.
"Hicksie is probably going to be in center," Gardenhire said. "He's been running the ball down pretty good."
Hicks said he's been working with the coaching staff on his decision-making in center field, and feels like he's making strides, but the first two throws just got away from him on Sunday.
"It's definitely a focus," Hicks said. "You really have to hit [cutoff men] and keep runners from going to the next bag."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.