DENVER – The Home Run Derby. An event meant to showcase the power of baseball.
It’s a contest among the burly sluggers of the game — and Brian Dozier.
“Dozier’s the type of guy, he’s smaller, and I think what’s going to make it tough for him is … it’s a big ballpark and he doesn’t have just the pure power guys like [Yoenis] Cespedes and [Jose] Bautista and [Giancarlo] Stanton and [Troy] Tulowitzki had,” ESPN analyst John Kruk said during a conference call last week. “To me he’s going to exert a lot more energy to hit home runs, and if he gets into the second round, you might see him tire out a little bit.”
When told of that, Dozier reacted as if Kruk swiped the last biscuit at the buffet.
“Just because Kruky is a bigger guy doesn’t mean he can shoot down the smaller guys,” Dozier said. “I gotta give Kruky a call.”
Kruk did add that hitting in front of Twins fans could provide a boost. Dozier will try to make the smaller guys proud on Monday when he takes aim at the left field stands during the annual Home Run Derby. Dozier leads the Twins with 13 homers, nine hit at Target Field. He will try to become the second player to win the event in his home stadium, the other being Ryne Sandberg in 1990.
Dozier is listed at 5-feet-11 and 190 pounds. Only Yoenis Cespedes, at 5-10, is shorter. And no one else in the Derby weighs under a listed 210 pounds. What is Dozier doing in this group?
“He’s got fast hands and he can hit them out,” said Justin Morneau, the former Twin and current Rockie who also is in the contest. “He’s got more homers than I do this year. He deserves to be there.”
Dozier’s brother, Clay, a former pitcher at Itawamba Community College and Delta State, will pitch to him. The two will meet hours before the event in the cages at Target Field and make sure they are on the same page. Brian Dozier likes high pitches in games, but prefers them down and in during batting practice. He’ll have to program that into his brother’s brain.
“Everyone has been tweeting him my hot zone,” Brian Dozier said. “Batting practice is totally different. Just because I like it up in games doesn’t mean throw it there.”
Morneau and Twins hitting coach Tom Brunansky — both former Home Run Derby participants — have offered the same advice.
“Don’t be afraid to take, even if they are strikes,” Morneau said. “If you feel the crowd is starting to get antsy because you’re taking strikes, don’t feel like you need to swing. If you don’t get the perfect pitch you want, then don’t swing at it. You can take four, five pitches in a row if they aren’t the ones you want.”
Dozier looked ready on Sunday, as he homered in his final two at-bats against Colorado. He’s already tied his season total from last year with 18 home runs.
Look out, Dozier is coming in hot. “A little momentum coming into it,” he said while chuckling. “I guess.’’