Aaron Boone changes Yankee lineup, sitting Aaron Hicks, Rougned Odor and Clint Frazier, in attempt to jump-start struggling Bombers

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Kristie Ackert, New York Daily News
·4 min read
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Tough talk from the manager didn’t work after Friday night’s game. A teammate hanging up his cleats didn’t inspire the Yankees on Sunday either, so now we’ll see if a vote of confidence from the GM and a little shakeup of the lineup will break the Bombers out of their 5-10 start to the season.

A day after GM Brian Cashman made a point to get in front of reporters and say he has confidence in Aaron Boone, his staff and the players, the manager sat Aaron Hicks — as well as Clint Frazier and Rougned Odor — for the series opener against the Braves at Yankee Stadium Tuesday night.

Hicks is not only hitting 160/.236/.240 with a home run and 14 strikeouts on the season but is 1-for his last 15 and made two costly defensive mistakes on Sunday. Frazier does not have a home run nor an RBI and is hitting .167 in the 11 games he has played. Boone also sat Odor to put Mike Ford at first and move DJ LeMahieu back to his natural second base spot.

Sunday, as the Yankees were swept by the Rays, Hicks’s struggles at the plate seemed to reach a peak. He flew out to shallow center and popped out to shortstop twice.

Boone downplayed all the moves as a chance to get veteran left-handed outfielder Brett Gardner in a game against veteran right-hander Charlie Morton, as well as inserting Mike Tauchman and Ford, who was called up to take the roster spot of Jay Bruce who retired after the game on Sunday, into the game.

“Just wanted to get him back in there against Morton, get a few lefties in there obviously against Morton,” Boone said of Gardner. “Then kind of decide on how you want to space them out against Charlie, and then they have a number of left-handers in their bullpen that pitch in a lot of different roles. So just trying to space out the three lefties tonight.”

At this point, the Yankees need to try anything to break out of their slump. Monday, Cashman tried to take some of the heat off the clubhouse by coming out and saying he acknowledged the poor play, but that he had faith they would turn it around.

The team he built to win on power bats and power pitching has started the season 5-10, because they really haven’t got a lot of either. The starters behind Gerrit Cole have been disappointing, combining for a 7.16 ERA and 1-6 record over 11 starts. They have a combined 49 strikeouts in 44.1 innings pitched, while Cole has thrown 24.2 innings with 39 strikeouts on his own.

And the Yankee offense is, well, bad.

They went into Tuesday night’s game tied with the Tigers for the fewest runs scored. Their .642 OPS in worst the majors. Their slugging percentage (.346) is the second to last in the big leagues and their 16 home runs are tied for 19th.

Usually, the Yankees can just use their power to gloss over the warts in their roster, but not so far this season.

So, Hicks, who missed on two balls in center field that cost the Yankees a run and eventually a game to the Rays on Sunday, sat and was given time to work with hitting coaches Marcus Thames and PJ Pillittere. Boone said there was “nothing drastic” that Hicks had to change and immediately reiterated his support for the center fielder.

“The bottom line is if we’re going to be the team we expect to be Aaron Hicks is going to be right in the middle of that and play a huge role for us and, frankly, nothing has changed in my mind, other than he’s one of the guys that’s gotten off to a slow start,” Boone said. “And I think he would benefit right now from a day off, possibly two. We’ll see where I’m at tomorrow on it but nothing’s changed as far as what I believe Aaron’s going to be for us this year and how important he’s going to be for us this year.”

This is a crucial year for Hicks with the Yankees.

After signing a seven-year, $70 million extension in spring 2019, Hicks has missed time with a torn ulnar collateral ligament and has yet to show the consistency they saw in 2018, when he hit 27 homers, to give him that contract. He’s been the focus of a fan base that is angry with the Yankees slow start.