It’s quite a head-to-head duel in Target Field this week, featuring two of the top home run hitters in the American League. Jose Bautista, the two-time AL home run champ, against … Brian Dozier?
“It’s pretty cool, I guess,” the Twins second baseman said. “But I’m not trying to hit home runs.”
That’s a pretty basic difference in their approaches, and one reason why nobody expects Dozier, with four homers, to keep up with the sluggers he’s keeping company with now, such as Bautista (five), Melky Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Jose Abreu and Mike Trout (four each). It’s not a bad way to contribute while he fights to get his batting average above .200 this season.
“Ultimately, what we’d like to see is him get his average up, and on base a little bit more leading off,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “But home runs are going to come with his swing — it’s short and to the ball. If they make a mistake with a breaking ball, he can pull the ball.”
He did it 18 times last year, becoming the first second baseman ever to lead the Twins in home runs. And he’s done it three times this year in the first inning, a result he especially enjoys. “Over the past year or so, I’ve learned when to take my shots,” Dozier said. “Early on, when [the pitcher is] trying to set the tone with fastballs, establish both sides of the plate, that’s a good time to do it.”
Is it time to stop thinking of Dozier as a power hitter?
“No, I’m just trying to put the ball in play. But I feel better about my swing now,” he said. “It started two years ago, when Bruno [hitting coach Tom Brunansky] and I really got busy and tried to create power in my legs. Using every bit of my body rather than just my upper body, and be more than a Punch-and-Judy hitter. It happens to a lot of people, they kind of grow into their swing, and that’s what happened to me.”
The infield chill factor
The itch to catch might have faded for Joe Mauer, but it comes back on a night like Tuesday. The temperature at first pitch was 35 degrees, reminding the Twins first baseman that “I’d much rather catch on a day like today.”
Why? The extra padding is an obvious reason, but the biggest thing, Mauer said, “is that a catcher is always moving around. For us infielders, there’s a lot more standing around, a lot more just feeling cold.”
Still, Mauer said, he’s felt colder. He’ll never forget one night in 2002, when he was playing for Class A Quad Cities. “Twenty-five degrees at the start, wind whipping from the outfield, nobody in the stands,” he said. “But we played. They said we’ve got to get them in.”
Mauer was one of three Twins wearing caps with ear flaps during the game, along with outfielders Jason Kubel and Chris Colabello. All three Blue Jays outfielders were wearing ski masks that covered their entire face.
• Outfielder Oswaldo Arcia received a cortisone shot in his sore right wrist Tuesday, in hopes of making progress with an injury that’s bothered him for almost two weeks. “We’ll let that settle in for the next couple of days and then test it out,” assistant general manager Rob Antony said. “It’s still a little inflamed, a little sore, so hopefully this will take care of that.”
• Arcia and Josh Willingham are both likely candidates for some sort of rehab assignment in the minors before coming off the disabled list. Antony said the ideal scenario for Willingham, out since April 7 after being hit on the wrist by a pitch in Cleveland, would be if he felt better by next Monday or so, while the Twins are on the road. That would enable him to go to a minor league affiliate for a couple of days, then meet the Twins when their next homestand begins April 25.
• Jason Bartlett, on a rehab stint of his own, played in an extended spring training game Tuesday, Antony said, and felt good. He’ll play at that level for a couple of days, then join Class A Fort Myers for a few games.