TORONTO – Brian Dozier stole second base Sunday, which isn’t the sort of thing he would normally want noted. After all, he is the Twins’ leadoff hitter, and he considers it his responsibility to put pressure on with his baserunning. He stole 18 in 20 attempts last year.
But 2017 has been a little odd — and Dozier doesn’t particularly want to talk about it. He stole five bases in five tries during the first 10 games, but then things abruptly changed. He was only 1-for-6 over the following three weeks, strange for someone with a 79 percent success rate to that point. Then he practically stopped running altogether, going only four times over the next 2½ months.
So what happened? “I can’t tell you that,” Dozier said, pleasantly but firmly, after the Twins beat the Blue Jays 7-2. “You go through things during a season that allow you to do things, and sometimes not to do things.”
That sounds like code for an injury, but the second baseman, who has played in 122 of the Twins’ 130 games, won’t go within 90 feet of that word. “I’m great,” he said, his standard answer, and it’s true he is 4-for-4 on the bases over the past three weeks.
The truth is, he said, “people don’t always understand about how you have to grind your way though a season. You go through slumps sometimes that might not actually be slumps,” he said, again hinting at injury. “There are times your body won’t let you do certain things, so you just grind through it.”
‘Hildy’ getting the ball
Trevor Hildenberger was summoned to relieve Kyle Gibson in the seventh inning Sunday, and he ended up retiring all three hitters he faced. The unusual thing about that: It was the third game in a row, and fifth in the past six days, that the rookie sidearmer has pitched.
True, it hasn’t been a heavy workload; Hildenberger’s 15 pitches Sunday were his most on this road trip, and those five games amount to just 47 pitches overall. But it’s a reflection of manager Paul Molitor’s trust in a pitcher who has only been in the majors for two months.
“I was going to use other people today, but when it came up, I thought he was the best guy to pick us up there,” Molitor said.
“And he did. He did a nice job getting three outs.”
Hildenberger said he is flattered by his manager’s faith. “It’s a vote of confidence,” the 26-year-old Californian said. “I felt really, really good. I’m in a pretty good rhythm, throwing strikes with all my pitches, attacking the zone, working on a slide-step so I can hold runners a little better in close games.
“I like that I’m throwing a lot. You stay sharper that way, instead of having four or five days between outings.”
• Molitor said he hasn’t decided about the pitching rotation beyond the upcoming White Sox series, including whether Dillon Gee will start Friday against the Royals. With only three off days remaining, there is no advantage to skipping the fifth starter when possible; Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios, the pitchers the Twins will rely on most down the stretch, would receive seven more starts either way.
• Aaron Slegers gave up five hits and three runs over eight innings Sunday in Class AAA Rochester’s 4-3 victory over Buffalo. Slegers could rejoin the Twins rotation after Sept. 1, too.
• Molitor compared Byron Buxton to his former teammate Devon White, a three-time All-Star and two-time world champion in Toronto. “I don’t know if everybody remembers how good Devon was. They have similar builds, similar stride length, almost effortless in the way they can track balls down,” Molitor said. “Defensively, Devon was probably the best center fielder of his generation, and maybe we’re looking at the best one in the current generation.”