One big reason why the Twins’ record going into Saturday night’s game at San Francisco was 23-22, compared to 18-27 in the same number of games last season, is the big contributions by second baseman Brian Dozier.
Dozier is having not only the best year of his career but is having one of the best years in baseball this season. Going into Saturday, Dozier was first in the American League in runs scored (42), tied for third in stolen bases (12), fifth in walks (30) and tied for seventh in home runs (11).
Dozier has only improved his play this month. Through 21 games in May he was hitting .313 with a .398 on-base percentage, 16 RBI, four home runs, four doubles and 17 runs.
He led the Twins this season in runs, hits, walks and home runs and was fourth in RBI, despite hitting in the leadoff position.
Dozier said making adjustments last season and getting a lot of help from the coaching staff is one reason for his big improvement.
“It’s one of those things where you establish yourself as an everyday player and you get confidence and stuff and take off from there,” he said.
Since he leads the team in homers, Dozier was asked if he still wants to hit leadoff.
“Absolutely. [Manager Ron Gardenhire] came to me in spring training and wanted me to be the leadoff guy, and I embraced it,” Dozier said. “I hit there last year a lot as well, and I embraced it. I think it kind of fits our mold, and look at the guys hitting behind me. That kind of thing can really drive some runs in. It’s fun being at the top of the lineup. You get to steal some bags, run around a little bit, get dirty, so that’s my kind of style.”
Coaches bring experience
Dozier said that working with Paul Molitor, who joined Gardenhire’s coaching staff this season, has been a big help.
“It has been awesome,” he said. “Any time you have a Hall of Famer on your staff it’s amazing. We’re so lucky to have him. I think his title is baserunning or whatever, but he has his hand in on everything. It’s always good to pick his brain about a lot of stuff, hitting, defense, everything. It is pretty special to have him and I can speak for the rest of the team, too.”
And what about Tom Brunansky, in his second year as hitting coach?
“Brunansky is awesome, he’s kind of the same way as Paul, he has his hand in on a lot of stuff, not just hitting,” Dozier said. “He was one of the best, in my opinion, when he was playing. I know for me he has kind of transformed everything with my swing, and a lot of things with other guys, too. He has done an outstanding job, too.”
Asked what changed in the clubhouse this year, Dozier replied: “I think everything. I think it’s night and day compared to where we were at this point last year. We upgraded our pitching staff. Our lineup has pretty much flip-flopped, night and day. It’s a lot better 1-9. Everything is going well and it’s a great mix of guys, too, in the clubhouse. That makes for a good day.”
Saunders won’t coach?
Apparently Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is going to stick with his plan to have Flip Saunders spend his time as president of the team and not as the coach.
Knowing Saunders as well as I do, there is no doubt in my mind that he misses coaching, but if the right coach is available — somebody like Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger, the Staples, Minn., product whom Saunders has admired for a long time — Taylor’s opinion will win out.
Grizzlies swingman Mike Miller recently spoke with WHBQ-FM in Memphis about the potential departure of Joerger, and he sounded resigned to the fact that it was imminent.
“It is [bizarre], but at the same time I respect what [owner] Robert [Pera] did. Coach Joerger did an amazing job, and he did such a good job that he has other suitors,” said Miller, a former Wolves player. “I think the only reason Robert let him do it is because it’s his home city, home state. That’s a unique situation for anyone to be in. I guess I’m saying good luck to him.”
Chris Vernon, who hosts an ESPN radio show in Memphis, reports that if the Wolves are able to get Joerger, the price might be one or two second-round picks. The Wolves have three second-round picks in the 2014 draft: No. 40, No. 44 and No. 53.
One wonders if there would be a better chance of keeping Kevin Love if a longtime established coach such as George Karl was hired, instead of a younger coach such as the 40-year-old Joerger, who has been an NBA head coach for just one season.
Don’t be surprised if Sam Mitchell, a very popular player with the Wolves who coached Toronto from 2004 to ’08 and was NBA Coach of the Year in 2007, winds up with the job if Joerger is unavailable.
• Former Gophers and NFL quarterback Adam Weber and current Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner are working out a lot together in the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex. Weber, who has signed to play for Saskatchewan in the Canadian Football League, was ranked with the smartest QBs to wear the maroon and gold in recent history. There is no doubt that Weber can make Leidner a better quarterback.
• Speaking at the Horseshoe Bay (Texas) Sports Club earlier this month, former Gophers men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith said the biggest disappointment in his career was being fired from the Gophers. “I noticed some unease in the office, and my wife called and said, ‘Are you getting fired? It’s on ESPN,’ ” Smith said, according to the Llano News. “I thought [at the meeting he was set to attend with Norwood Teague] I was getting a raise.”
• Any time you build a new stadium or do a complete remodeling job like the Green Bay Packers did with Lambeau Field, profit is going to jump. The Packers showed a record profit of $54.3 million after the 2012 season, and the Vikings should hope to match that figure when their stadium opens.
• Pat Neshek, the former Twins reliever from Park Center High School, is having perhaps the best season of his major league career, which began in 2006. Neshek, 33, entered Saturday 1-0 with a 0.86 ERA over 21 innings and 23 appearances for the St. Louis Cardinals. He had struck out 23 batters while walking just three and giving up only nine hits and two earned runs.
• Former Gophers basketball forward Trevor Mbakwe posted his third consecutive double-double as Virtus Rome defeated Cantu in Italy. Mbakwe had 14 points, 20 rebounds and five blocks in a victory Saturday. … Former Gophers center Colton Iverson is averaging 6.2 points and 4.3 rebounds in 14.9 minutes per game for Besiktas in Turkey.