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LB In MLB: Spring Training Update

Spring training is in full swing for the 15 Major League Baseball players with ties to Long Beach, but the biggest piece of recent news from the local boys came from the front office of the New York Yankees.

Wilson High alum Aaron Hicks signed his all-important second contract with the Yankees earlier this month. The center fielder will make $70 million over the first seven years of the new deal. Hicks, 29, also had his first child, Aaron Jr., in February.

“Definitely now I don’t have to worry about buying diapers,” Hicks told ESPN’s Coley Harvey. “This was a fair deal for both sides. This is an organization I want to stay with. The guys in the clubhouse, I want to fight for them. I want to go to war for them.”

The contract is almost an award for Hicks after he posted career highs in games played (137), home runs (27), RBIs (79), runs scored (90) and wins above replacement (4.7).

“He has more gas in his tank, he has more mountains to climb,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told ESPN. “We’re excited by a player who came here that wasn’t a finished product and had a lot of upside. We engaged him on a lot of levels about the talent that we thought he possessed.”

Hicks was drafted straight out of Wilson High after leading the Bruins to a CIF championship. The Minnesota Twins selected him with the 14th overall selection of the 2008 draft, and he made his debut in 2013. Hicks was sent down to the minor leagues, and then called back up again multiple times while in Minnesota for three years. He signed with the Yankees in 2016.

“(Hicks) is a big part of this team and a big part of our success… I always love playing by him,” Yankees All-Star outfielder Aaron Judge told ESPN. “To hear he got seven years, we’ll be playing together for a long time.”

Most of the other news for local MLBers hasn’t been very good.

Lakewood High alum and LBSU Dirtbags product Matt Duffy, 28, is being held out of spring training games this week because of a lingering hamstring injury. The third baseman hit .294 last season after returning from a foot injury.

Wilson High alum Chase DeJong was talked about as a possible starter at the back of the Minnesota Twins rotation, but the right-handed pitcher hasn’t had a good start to spring training. DeJong, has given up 11 earned runs in his first four appearances.

Lakewood High alum JP Crawford, 24, is also having a tough time getting going with the Seattle Mariners. The shortstop only had three hits and five strikeouts in his first 17 plate appearances with his new team. However, Crawford has shown signs of improvement with three hits in his last 10 plate appearances, including his first double and triple with the Mariners.

LBSU Dirtbags product Jason Vargas is trying to hold on to his spot in the New York Mets starting rotation after an awful 2018 campaign. Vargas, 36, had a 5.77 ERA and only 84 strikeouts in 92 innings pitched. The left-handed pitcher gave up a solo home run in his first spring training appearance, but pitched two scoreless innings in his only other action.

Fellow Dirtbags product and veteran pitcher Marco Estrada, 35, was traded from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Oakland A’s in the offseason after a disappointing year. The veteran right-hander has given up nine hits, six runs and two home runs in six innings with his new team.

*Statistics through March 11

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.