Aaron Hicks moved to the No. 9 spot as ‘double leadoff’

CHICAGO — Over his last 10 games, Aaron Hicks has struggled something fierce, and for Friday night’s game against the White Sox, he found himself dropped to the No. 9 spot in the lineup. Hicks had not been at the bottom of the starting lineup since 2017.

Aaron Boone said it wasn’t punishment or taking the pressure off the struggling outfielder. Instead, he sees his on-base percentage as something they can take advantage up while he finds his power. Hicks is among the best in the league in drawing walks with an 18% walk rate.

“The one thing Aaron’s doing really well right now still getting on base and to have that on-base presence on the nine hole is something that I value and can kind of serve as a double leadoff hitter,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said before Friday night’s game. “He can get on base in front of our guys in the middle, Judge, Donaldson and Stanton tonight, so I just really value … while he’s kind of finding his way right now, still his ability to get on this has been there all season so far. I think that’s valuable.”

Over the last 10 games, the center fielder is 2-for-30 or .067/.263/.067. Overall, he’s hitting .215/.364/.253 with a .617 OPS, the second lowest of his career.

HELLO AGAIN

After just one start in the minors, Clarke Schmidt was back with the Yankees on Friday. The right hander took the spot left after the Yankees optioned spot starter Luis Gil back to Triple-A.

Schmidt began the season with the Yankees, made four appearances and pitched to a 1.08 ERA with eight strikeouts over 8.1 innings pitched. He was sent to Triple-A on May 1 when the rosters were cut down from 28 to 26. The plan at the time was to stretch him out as a starter.

He went 2.1 innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits. He walked two and struck out three in his only start.

“I mean, it’s tough. It’s a little bit of an environmental change. But yeah, it was good to get my pitch count up. That was my main goal going down there was to kind of build that pitch count up for a start,” Schmidt said. “And so I did like close to 50 (pitches) in my last start, so I mean, I would assume I’m available for around 70 or 80, whenever needed. So yeah, it’s very good to get that in.”

Gil gave the Yankees four innings Thursday night, but the Bombers had to send him back to replenish their bullpen with Schmidt.

“He’s got some length still built up, not the full starters build up, but he’s a guy that can give us some innings out in the bullpen,” Boone said. “He has thrown the ball really well for us when he was here and in his outings so he’s the guy that when we go to him, we have a lot of confidence in him and like where he’s at in the season.”

RORTVEDT UPDATE

Ben Rortvedt, the catcher the Yankees acquired from the Twins, has been shut down with a knee issue. Boone said they are trying to figure out what exactly it is.

“We’re kind of trying to get our heads wrapped around that and so he’s just caught the other day and then the knee was kind of catching on him a little bit,” Boone said. “So we’ve got to see.”Boone said he expects tests to be done soon.

Rortvedt just returned to the field after missing most of spring training with an oblique strain, which the Yankees knew he had when they acquired him in the deal that sent Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela to the Twins and brought back Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Josh Donaldson and Rortvedt.

The Yankees were very high on the young catcher, who is considered an excellent receiver. When his recovery from the oblique injury turned out to be slow, the Yankees went out and traded for Jose Trevino. So Rortvedt obviously doesn’t factor into the big league picture at the moment.

“We’re obviously, knock on wood, in pretty good shape here right now with our catching situation,” Boone said. “But still, we’re really excited about him and what he brings to the table too. So we just got to get him right now and feel like at some point he’ll play a factor for us.”

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