HOUSTON -- Two weeks ago, it appeared the season was over for Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks. He went down with an elbow injury in early August and there was concern he would need Tommy John surgery. Instead, Hicks was able to rehab the injury, and he returned in time to be on New York's ALCS roster.
The Yankees originally planned to use Hicks as a bench player and late-inning defensive replacement during the ALCS, but Giancarlo Stanton's injury pushed him into starting duty, and he reached base six times in four starts. .
"It was to a point where I got my second opinion and it was the worst thing to hear," Hicks said following Game 5. "To hear you're going to have Tommy John and your season is going to end is something that isn't what you want to hear ... I wouldn't be here (if I didn't rehab the injury). I wouldn't have this opportunity to play in the postseason, and grind and try to win with my team."
Following Game 6, Hicks confirmed he was indeed told he would need Tommy John surgery. The doctor recommended the procedure, and rather than go through with it, Hicks rehabbed the injury on his own. He started playing catch with a buddy and felt good, so he sent the Yankees a video, and they told him to go to their spring training complex so they could help him rehab.
Hicks does not anticipate having Tommy John surgery this offseason despite the doctor's recommendation. It's unclear whether he will alter his offseason workout routine, but, as for surgery, there is no plan to go under the knife right now.
"Right now, it feels all right," Hicks said following Game 6. "For me right now, I don't see myself having Tommy John. I was throwing the ball around pretty well. So I don't think so."
Hicks never had to make a throw with urgency during the ALCS, but he did make full effort throws (or close to full effort throws) during workouts at Yankee Stadium between the ALDS and ALCS. That would seem to be a good sign.
Many pitchers have attempted to rehab their elbow ligament rather than have Tommy John surgery, though few have been successful. Yankees righty Masahiro Tanaka was diagnosed with a small ligament tear in 2014 but was never told he needed surgery. Doctors recommended rehab, which he completed, and his elbow's been healthy since.
Hicks has enough of a tear in his ligament that Tommy John surgery was recommended. In that case, it's usually only a matter of time until the ligament gives out completely and surgery becomes unavoidable. Perhaps Hicks will prove to be an exception. The Yankees will plan for the worst case scenario and ensure they have a quality backup center fielder next year just in case.
Position players have a much shorter Tommy John surgery rehab timetable than pitchers. Pitchers usually need 12-16 months to rehab. Position players can make it back in as few as six months. Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius had Tommy John surgery last October and returned in June, which provides a timetable for Hicks should he have surgery.