FORT MYERS, FLA. – Brian Dozier was signed up for the first week of the Twins Caravan. That left him with several days before he was expected to be in attendance at TwinsFest.
Dozier stayed in the Twin Cities rather than make a round trip home to Mississippi and back.
He called Paul Molitor, a Twins minor league instructor, and asked to get together for some infield work. Molitor met him three times at the University of Minnesota.
“It wasn’t like we did a great deal,” Molitor said. “We went through some things on playing second base.”
Manager Ron Gardenhire has praised Dozier several times in spring training for his workouts with Molitor. That’s the way it has been with Tom Kelly and now Gardenhire 26 years:
A player perceived to have gone out of the norm to get ready for a season gets extra credit. And Dozier hit an exacta this winter, first spending three weeks playing in Venezuela, then taking the initiative to contact Molitor for a second-base seminar.
And, Dozier doing these things in the wake of end-of-season frustration adds to the Twins’ feeling that the 25-year-old plans to make it as an everyday player in the middle of the infield.
Dozier was called to the Twins from Class AAA Rochester last May 7 and put in the lineup at shortstop. He started 81 of the next 88 games. On Aug. 15, he was batting .234 and playing subpar shortstop, and the Twins sent him back to Rochester.
“I thought, ‘OK, I’ll go down there, find my swing and I’ll be back in September,’ ” Dozier said.
He didn’t find his swing. And the Twins had other ideas for September. They kept looking at Pedro Florimon as a possible shortstop for 2013.
“That was humbling — not to get called up for September,” Dozier said. “I was driving home to Mississippi from Rochester. I got calls from both T.R. [General Manager Terry Ryan] and Gardy, telling me not to get down, and also that I should start doing most of my work at second base.”
Second base is where the manager played him for Margarita in Venezuela.
Who was that manager?
“Everyone called him ‘Bam Bam,’ so he was Bam Bam to me,” Dozier said. “I didn’t know his actual name.”
Dozier did his shift in Venezuela, worked out in Mississippi, had the sessions with Molitor, showed up in spring training — and was pointed to second base.
“I think people have an idea that I’ve played more second base than is really the case,” Dozier said. “I’ve been a shortstop my whole life. I played a few games at second when I was down here with [manager] Jake Mauer at Fort Myers, but only a few. This is mostly new to me.”
Dozier’s arm, feet and hands were good enough to be a big-league shortstop — although barely. Put those same skills at second base and they should work.
“I thought Brian had a chance to play shortstop regularly in the big leagues, but second base is probably the better spot.” Molitor said. “Frankly, I’m more interested if he has his approach at the plate figured out than if he’s going to make the plays at second base.”
Dozier moved from low-A Beloit in May 2010 to the Twins in May 2012 because he was an infielder who could hit.
“I was OK early at the plate for the Twins, but they started to pitch me different,” Dozier said. “I tried to adjust and lost sight of my whole approach.
‘‘Every two weeks, I was changing my swing, then changing again. I was such a mess that I couldn’t hit when I got back to Rochester.”
There was no summons to Minnesota for September. He was on that long drive back to Mississippi, feeling low. The calls came from Ryan and Gardenhire: Think 2013, think second base, think about winning that job.
“The biggest difference at second is so much comes from your blind side — the runner, most of the throws you make,” Dozier said. “I feel more comfortable with that, with playing second, by the day.”
Dozier was involved in five double plays worth of comfort earlier this week vs. the Cardinals.
“Kept the game moving, didn’t it?” Dozier said.
Gardenhire likes that even more than a player’s extra work.