Hicks comes out of gate strong with lumber

Hicks comes out of gate strong with lumber

CHICAGO -- Aaron Hicks has been known as a slow starter at just about every level throughout his career, and it was certainly the case last year, when he opened his big league career by going just 2-for-48.

But Hicks started out strong on Opening Day against the White Sox on Monday, going 2-for-3 with a double to match his hit total through his first 13 games last year in just one day. He followed that up with a 2-for-4, two-walk effort in Wednesday's 7-6 loss to Chicago. And now he's looking to build on that and avoid the early-season struggles he endured last year.

"I just want to get off to a good start," Hicks said. "It's a pretty good start, but it's a long season. It feels good when you get those two hits. Makes you feel more comfortable when you go into the next game."

Hicks started out batting leadoff last season -- and still has the potential to bat atop the lineup -- but the Twins are trying to take the pressure off him by batting him eighth early in the year. Hicks said he's fine with that decision, with Brian Dozier serving as the club's leadoff hitter in the interim.

"Hitting eighth, I guess, takes a lot off of me," Hicks said. "I can come up and take a pitch and try to drive guys in."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has sensed a difference in Hicks, who had a solid showing in Spring Training and is showing more confidence than last year.

"Hicksy's attitude and the way he went about it in spring was different," Gardenhire said. "He knows the game can slap you upside the head a little bit and beat you around. So he's a little bit more prepared. He's kind of on a mission, which is a good thing."

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.