FORT MYERS, Fla. – Before it fades from memory, from the record book, from any trace of existence, let’s note what the Twins accomplished in the first inning Saturday.
Their first eight batters reached base, seven of them with hits, and 14 batters came to the plate overall. Brian Dozier singled and homered in the inning, Joe Mauer walked and singled, and Eduardo Escobar singled and walked. Six Twins recorded RBI and Red Sox starter Jalen Beeks was knocked out without retiring a batter as the Twins took a 9-0 lead at Hammond Stadium.
Yet “it’s like it never happened,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. That’s because, about an hour later, a light drizzle turned into a steady rain, and the game was called in the third inning with the Twins leading 10-3. Since five innings weren’t played, none of what happened will go on anyone’s Grapefruit League statistics. There was a sellout crowd on hand, but they went away disappointed.
“We’ve all lost hits along the way,” Molitor said. “We played as much as we could, but it looked like it was getting unsafe. You play in those conditions during the season, but down here, you’re a little more apprehensive.”
When Hanley Ramirez arrived on second base Saturday, he turned to Dozier with a question: Who are you talking to?
“He thought I was crazy,” Dozier said with a laugh. Actually, though, he was wearing a microphone and earphone, so he could communicate with Cory Provus and Dan Gladden as part of Fox Sports North and WCCO-AM’s simulcast of the game. It gave viewers and listeners a behind-the-scenes perspective.
For instance, when pitching coach Garvin Alston came to the mound to confer with Kyle Gibson after he hit a batter, Dozier wandered over and had a few words with the pitcher. During a normal broadcast, it might seem as if they were talking strategy. Thanks to the mic, viewers heard his actual advice: “Let’s go dude. This rain is killing me, let’s go,” Dozier said. “I’m out here getting wet, and he’s hitting people.”
“It was fun,” Dozier said after the game. “I was a little worried about the dugout — we’re grown men talking, and we might be talking about things we don’t want other teams to hear — but I had a good time. Especially with Nunie.”
That’s Boston’s Eduardo Nunez, the former Twins shortstop and close friend of Dozier’s. When Dozier homered in the Twins’ big first inning — listeners heard him say “Uh-oh” as the ball rose toward the horizon — he taunted Nunez as he rounded the base. “That’s for you, Nunie! That’s for you, baby!”
No decision yet
Molitor said he hasn’t determined who the Twins’ Opening Day starter will be, but he should have an announcement soon. The obvious choice is Jose Berrios, Molitor admitted, but that would make it difficult for him to pitch in Puerto Rico two weeks later.
“We kind of have an idea of how we’re going to do it,” Molitor said, “but we’re going to let it play out for just a little bit longer before we make anything official.”
The Twins travel to Port Charlotte to face the Rays for the second time in three days Sunday, and Mauer is scheduled to bat leadoff.