Hartman: Dozier leading the way in Twins' turnaround

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 24, 2014 - 11:55 PM
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Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, getting loose before Tuesday’s victory at San Diego, ranks among the American League leaders in several offensive categories, including stolen bases and home runs, putting him on pace to become the Twins’ first 30-30 player.

Photo: LENNY IGNELZI • Associated Press,

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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.

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