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Yankees’ Aaron Boone: Oswaldo Cabrera ‘earned’ start over Aaron Hicks

Lost amid the craze over the new Yankees’ shortstop was the Yankees’ new left fielder. 

On an afternoon that largely was about Anthony Volpe, Oswaldo Cabrera made his first Opening Day start Thursday, which put Aaron Hicks on the bench for Game 1. 

Cabrera “earned it,” manager Aaron Boone said before the Yankees’ win over the Giants, in announcing the Bombers essentially have a new regular in left field.

The flexible Cabrera still will move around, and Hicks likely will see time, particularly with center fielder Harrison Bader out for at least a few weeks, but it does not sound as if Hicks, in his eighth season in pinstripes, will be an everyday player. 

“I just felt like Oswaldo is the guy who’s earned that right to be in there,” Boone said of Cabrera, who hit .333 with four home runs in 20 Grapefruit League games. “Obviously, what he was able to do for us last year. He came in and had a really good spring, as did Aaron.” 

Oswaldo Cabrera enters the 2023 season as the Yankees' starting leftfielder.
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Cabrera, who struck out in all four of his at-bats in the season-opener, had the stronger spring, but Hicks posted fine numbers, too.

The 33-year-old, coming off a dreadful season, had a .798 OPS in 18 Grapefruit League games, but it was not enough to immediately earn the job (even with the benefit of Hicks being longer-tenured). 

“I really have liked what I have seen from Hicks over, especially the last couple of weeks of spring training, where I feel like the at-bats, the edge, everything has been there,” Boone said. “So he’s going to play a huge role.” 

Hicks was the Opening Day starting center fielder in 2018 and 2020-22, only missing 2019 because of a back injury.

Including this season, Hicks has three more years left on a seven-year, $70 million extension signed prior to the 2019 campaign. 

After a year in which Hicks was lost at the plate and in the field — even getting pulled in the middle of a September game after several defensive miscues while the Bronx crowd heavily booed him — Hicks was only heard from once on Opening Day: As he was announced before the game during team introductions, there were some boos. 

After starting for several seasons, Aaron Hicks begins the 2023 campaign coming off the bench.
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Aaron Judge started in center field, a spot the Yankees would rather not play the slugger every day.

Estevan Florial could play some center, but the out-of-options, still-raw prospect has a tenuous hold on a roster spot. Without Bader, who will miss at least another few weeks with an oblique strain, Hicks could see time in center.

But if and when everyone is healthy, Cabrera has won most of the left-field playing time, which means it is unclear when Hicks will see the field. 

With Giancarlo Stanton able to play some outfield, the Yankees are planning to alternate designated hitters. Gleyber Torres was the DH Thursday, and Boone said DJ LeMahieu could DH on Saturday against the Giants.