NEW YORK -- Aaron Hicks wasted no time stating his case for playing time in the Yankees' upcoming postseason run, adding a late contender for the team's best defensive play of the season with a leaping grab that stole a grand slam from the Rays' Wilson Ramos in the first inning of Tuesday night's 6-1 win in the series opener at Yankee Stadium.
Hicks brought back the deep drive at the 385-foot marker in right-center field, forcing Ramos to settle for a sacrifice fly off Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery. Hicks was reinstated from the 10-day disabled list prior to Tuesday's game, adding another valuable outfield option to the roster as the Yankees eye a potential American League Wild Card Game and more.
"It's definitely a big test," Hicks said. "I'm fully extended. I was able to make the catch and it felt good. My body feels good right now."
It was the second grand slam that Hicks has robbed this year, having taken one away from the Angels' Luis Valbuena in Anaheim on July 14. Hicks said that Tuesday's catch was "definitely Top 5" in his career.
"It's unbelievable," Starlin Castro said. "That's the catch of the game right there. If he doesn't make that catch, we might still be playing or we might have lost the game. That's four runs in the first inning."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the play would have been more difficult for one of the team's other center fielders, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, because they are left-handed. Montgomery approached Hicks in the dugout and hugged him, telling his teammate, "Thanks for saving me."
"It's huge. He really picked me up," Montgomery said. "Hicksy is such a good athlete, anything around, he's going to have a chance. He made a good jump and a better snag. It was big."
Hicks had not appeared in a big league game since Sept. 2 due to a left oblique strain. The 27-year-old was on pace for a breakout season, setting career highs with 13 homers and 48 RBIs in 82 games before his year was interrupted by a right oblique strain in late July.
"I think it's important to get him back," Girardi said. "He had a great first half for us and he's been kind of bit by those ribcage strains. It's great to have him back."
The Yankees' playoff outfield mix remains in question. Ellsbury, Gardner and Aaron Judge are locks, and Hicks' return could push rookie Clint Frazier off the roster for a potential AL Division Series. Hicks worked walks in each of his first three plate appearances on Tuesday, including one that forced in a run, before striking out swinging to end his night in the sixth inning.
"I felt great hitting," Hicks said. "I felt like I saw the ball well. I was rushed a little bit in my last at-bat, but that's to be expected."
• Right-hander Adam Warren (lower back spasms) threw a two-inning simulated game on Tuesday and he "felt good," according to Girardi. The Yankees are planning on having Warren pitch twice in the final four games of the regular season to evaluate his readiness for a postseason outing.
• Mike Tyson was on the field during batting practice prior to Tuesday's game. The former heavyweight champion boxer posed for photos with several Yankees players, including Castro and Gary Sanchez.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.