PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. – Brian Dozier made his eighth start of the Grapefruit League season on Friday, and all eight have come as the leadoff hitter. Is that an indication that Paul Molitor has already decided to stick with his power-hitting second baseman at the top?
Probably so, the manager said. He’s aware of “analytics and anything else that might suggest that you might want to try something different,” Molitor said, and he’s open to considering moving Dozier down in the order. Then again, he’s been pretty successful in that slot.
“Knowing the person and what he does in that role and how he enjoys that role, and the fact that it’s worked, makes it a little hard for me to be eager to try to find something different,” Molitor said.
The rest of the lineup is a lot more up in the air, he said. Jorge Polanco, for instance, hit eight homers and drove in 22 runs as the third-place hitter during Miguel Sano’s absence last September. Molitor has batted him second much of the time this spring. And Byron Buxton, who batted ninth more than anyplace else last season, has been in the sixth slot for the past week or so.
“Those conversations haven’t been finalized,” Molitor said, and one reason for that is the unexpected free-agent signing of Logan Morrison.
“With the Morrison addition in particular, it’s going to affect some guys and where they hit, for sure,” Molitor said. “You just try to get them to see that, if you’re not in the top third, we’re trying to stretch our lineup the best we can, and that’s going to have value.”
Vargas small ball?
The Twins have a special “steal” sign for Kennys Vargas, Molitor joked after Friday’s game. “It’s the bill of the cap, and cross your fingers,” he said with a smile.
Whatever the signal, it worked. Vargas, who has never attempted to steal a base in his 236-game major league career, took off for second base on a 3-2 count to Chris Heisey — and made it easily. “I took a little chance, putting him in motion knowing that the guy [Rays pitcher Sergio Romo] was particularly slow to home plate,” Molitor explained. “I figured [Heisey] was going to get a breaking ball. I was hoping for contact, but we got the base.”
Actually, the 300-pound Vargas had a Byron Buxton kind of day. In addition to his first stolen base since a 2016 swipe in Class AAA, he went from first to third on a single, beat out an infield hit and scored on a wild pitch.
“Speed is not a requirement to be a good baserunner,” Molitor said.
• Phil Hughes and Stephen Gonsalves both threw roughly 40 pitches in simulated games at Twins camp. Hughes will return to the rotation Monday in Tampa, Molitor said.
• Once Friday’s game ended, wives of the Twins and Rays players took the field for a charity softball game. The Twins’ wives won 9-4 but, more important, they raised $19,500 for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas victims fund.
All three free-agent bullpen additions — Zach Duke, Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney — will pitch Saturday when the Twins try to extend their Grapefruit League winning streak to four against the Red Sox.