Yankees CF Hicks (back) to miss opening series

CLEARWATER, Fla. --New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks will miss Opening Day and likely begin the regular season on the injured list because of a lower back injury he has been dealing with since early March, manager Aaron Boone told reporters Sunday morning.

Earlier in the day, Hicks told ESPN that while he won't play in the opening series against the Baltimore Orioles, he expects to be in the lineup for the following series against the Detroit Tigers. Opening Day is March 28; the Tigers series begins April 1.

Boone said he believed it was possible that Hicks returns by the start of next month.

"He could avoid a full [injured list] stay at the big league level because obviously we can backdate him," Boone said. "He'll start on the [injured list]."

Hicks, 29, hasn't played since encountering back stiffness in a spring training game on March 1. He received a second cortisone shot to address the pain Sunday, six days after receiving his first one. Hicks told ESPN he found out he would need the second shot while working on some rotational activity Saturday.

"There's still a little bit in there, and we just want to make sure this isn't something that lingers during the season," Boone said. "Hopefully this will knock it out once and for all, but it will slow him down by a couple of days."

Had it not been for the second shot, Hicks said he would have been on target to play Opening Day.

Boone added that the Yankees think Hicks will be physically ready for the season opener, but they don't believe he will have enough time to get the necessary spring training games and at-bats.

With Hicks out of the mix for the start of the season, New York has options for filling the open spot on the roster. First basemen Luke Voit and Greg Bird could both make the team when camp breaks. Boone said there was "probably more of a case" that that could occur now.

Clint Frazier, returning from a season that was mostly lost due to a concussion, could find his way onto the roster as the Yankees build their outfield depth. VersatileTyler Wade -- an infielder who will spend last week primarily in the outfield, Boone said -- is another option.

Highly touted center-field prospect Estevan Florial will not be part of that early-season mix. The 21-year-old, whose strong play has been turning heads all spring,suffered a nondisplaced right wrist fracture after leaping at the wall late in Saturday's game. Boone said the next 48 hours will dictate the Yankees' next course of action, but it's likely that Florial will be out for a significant amount of time.

Following more tests on his wrist Monday, Florial will visit a hand specialist Tuesday.

"Obviously, it's disappointing to get that news, but it's also a bump in the road and hopefully something that doesn't wipe out too much of his season," Boone said. "What he's shown us here in the spring ... the strides we've seen in his game have been really exciting, and nothing changes there.

"It's just a bump along the way, and hopefully he can still have somewhat of a full season even though obviously it's going to be delayed the first several weeks."

Another injured outfielder made it to the Yankees' spring training facility Sunday for the first time this year.

Jacoby Ellsbury, 35, done with the rehab work that he had been undertaking near his offseason home in Phoenix, arrived in Florida this weekend. Ellsbury isn't a short-term possibility to play while Hicks is out, as the Yankees are still easing the veteran back into baseball activity. Boone said he has been playing catch at short distances and hitting off tees.

"Good to see Jacoby," Boone said. "Making progress."

Last month, Hicks signed a seven-year extension that will keep him under contract through the 2025 season. The deal will pay Hicks $70 million over seven years, according to sources and multiple reports, and includes a club option for 2026.

A .236 career hitter, Hicks was traded to the Yankees from Minnesota after the 2015 season.

After scuffling to a .217 batting average in his first Yankees season and struggling to stay healthy in his second year, Hicks had a career year in 2018. He set career highs in games played (137), home runs (27), RBI (79), runs scored (90) and WAR (4.7).
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