CHICAGO — Brian Dozier hasn’t batted anywhere but in the leadoff spot for nearly two years, since July 30, 2016. But given that hits are so scarce for the Twins’ second baseman these days — he’s had only three in his last 42 at-bats — Twins manager Paul Molitor decided it’s time to try something different.
So Joe Mauer will bat first for the Twins tonight, in the second game of a four-game series with the White Sox, and Dozier will bat second.
“Just trying to get [Dozier] untracked a little bit, maybe give him a different look and maybe take advantage of the fact that Joe’s been squaring up a lot of balls,” Molitor explained of the move. “[Mauer has] been taking his walks, and we’ll see how it plays out. I’ve been thinking about trying something different. There’s not a lot of places I can tweak, but that’s one idea that I had and we’re going to give it a shot today.”
Molitor doesn’t seem particularly worried about Dozier’s slide; it’s only been 10 days, he pointed out, no more indicative of how his season will eventually wind up than the .310 average with four homers that he put up in the season’s first 16 games. Far more important tonight to their chances of getting out of their 2-12 post-Puerto Rico skid is the performance of Jose Berrios.
In two starts since the right-hander’s shutout performance in his homeland, Berrios has been hit hard: nine runs over seven innings, an 11.57 ERA. He lasted only three innings and 60 pitches Sunday against the Reds, but Molitor figures that might work to his advantage.
“The reality is, when you get some of those outings where your pitch count is held down a little bit, sometimes it can recharge you. Not only your next start, but you need those a little bit along the way,” Molitor reasoned. “I’m sure he’s anxious to get back out there after that last game. We’ll see what it brings, but I think he’s going to have a good night.”
Byron Buxton had a good day. He ran about 80 yards in a straight line across the outfield, then turned around and walked back to the foul line. Buxton repeated the light workout a half-dozen times, with Twins trainer Tony Leo looking on, and then did a handful of short runs and quick changes of direction. He also took a session of batting practice, the first time he’s done that on the field in three weeks.
Overall, it was big progress for a player sidelined by migraines and a fractured big toe since mid-April, Molitor said. “It was good to see him hit. His BP went really well. The straight-ahead running, I think is getting close. We didn’t have a lot of issues with the throwing and the hitting and the straight-ahead,” said Molitor, who isn’t ready to set a target date for Buxton’s return. “We started doing cuts and things like that, and we’re still not where we need to be. The good news is it’s a better day today than yesterday.”
Here are the lineups for tonight’s game: