NEW YORK -- The Yankees had almost forgotten how impressive Aaron Hicks' right arm was to watch, so much so that a group of pitchers marveled over his velocity while shagging batting practice fly balls as they opened their rivalry homestand vs. the Red Sox, wondering aloud what radar gun readings he might produce from the mound.
Adam Warren guessed that Hicks could bring the heat in the upper 90s if he opted to pitch, but the Yankees are glad that Hicks was patrolling left field in the ninth inning on Friday, where he uncorked a rocket that cut down Eduardo Nunez at third base to help secure New York's 5-4 victory over the Red Sox.
"Big-time throw," Brett Gardner said. "If he's safe right there, I think the next play is a sac fly and the game is tied, right? Who knows how it would have played out? Just a game-changer on both sides of the ball. We're glad to have him back."
Having been activated from the disabled list on Thursday, Hicks' two-run homer off Addison Reed helped spark a five-run eighth inning. Aroldis Chapman immediately placed the Yankees' lead in jeopardy in the ninth as he walked the bases loaded with no outs, missing the strike zone with 12 of his first 15 pitches.
Andrew Benintendi lifted a fly ball that Hicks snared just in front of the warning track. Realizing immediately Jackie Bradley Jr. would score easily on the sacrifice fly, Hicks fired to third base, where Todd Frazier snagged the one-hop throw and tagged Nunez's left side as he slid by.
"Personally, it's the play that saved the game," Chapman said through an interpreter. "It's an important double play there. It helped me relax and helped me to get through that inning."
The Red Sox challenged, but the call on the field was confirmed and Mitch Moreland flied out to end the game. According to Statcast™, Hicks' throw traveled 216 feet.
"I knew I tagged him," Frazier said. "I didn't know where his hand was, to be honest, but I knew I grazed him, basically. It was one of those things where the Inspector Gadget, 'Go-Go-Gadget arm' just came through. That was it."
Though Hicks is the owner of the hardest outfield throw since the Statcast™ system was introduced, a 105.5-mph pellet in the Bronx last April 20, Nunez said that he would try the same play in the same situation next time.
"As soon as I see the ball was pretty deep, I thought in my mind, 'If he throws me out, it will be a perfect throw, strong throw, because of my speed,'" Nunez said. "And he did it. So credit to him."
Hicks was in the midst of a breakout campaign when he was sidelined by a strained right oblique in late June, costing him 39 games, and said that it had been difficult to watch as his teammates moved up and down the standings.
"He was, in my opinion, on his way to making an All-Star team before he got hurt," Gardner said. "We're really happy to have him back. He was a big part of what we were doing here the first couple of months. We missed him while he was gone and we're happy he's back."
One day after hurriedly boarding a flight to Toronto in order to rejoin the active roster, Hicks is already making his presence felt in the race.
"It feels good to be able to be around the guys and to see their smiling faces again," Hicks said.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.