The manager likes what he sees in his shortstop, hot prospect Brian Dozier.
Brian Dozier will send the ball he hit for his first major league home run and the pink cleats he wore on Mother's Day home to his mom. He may have to keep the thong.
Sunday afternoon, the home-run ball was sealed within a plastic baggie in his locker. A pink thong, a form of hazing designed to honor and humiliate a contributing rookie, was stretched across the back of his chair, a gift from Justin Morneau.
Some big-leaguers' careers don't last much past the hazing stage. After a week in the majors, Dozier should be comfortable planning pranks to play on next year's rookies. He should be around.
In one of the most encouraging developments in a horrific season, Dozier has taken charge of the shortstop position, displaying fielding range, arm strength, agility and the ability to spray line drives all over Target Field.
"He's pretty good,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, in a tone that indicated understatement. "He makes it look pretty easy out there. He gets after the game, studies the game, asks all the right questions. And he's fun to watch.''
Dozier went 2-for-5 Sunday, hit two balls hard, smashed a Ricky Romero changeup for a home run and helped the Twins reach double-digit victories with a 4-3 victory over Toronto. He also made plays to his right and left, and eased concern about his ability to charge the ball.
"Those fields down there are a little different than our fields up here,'' Gardenhire said about Dozier's play in the minors. "Sometimes down there you get a few rough hops. But he was working on it, and he looks pretty good to me.''
The Twins have a long history of delaying the arrival of their best prospects, perhaps because they also have a long history of sending their best prospects back to the minors.
Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau and Johan Santana needed extra pit stops in the minors before they became stars. Dozier, who will turn 25 on Tuesday, played at Southern Miss and advanced step by step through the Twins organization.
Here's how he tried to diplomatically address the Twins' extreme patience in his case: "The Twins are really good about, uh, prolonging, or not really prolonging ... they're good with keeping their people in the farm system.''
The Twins' 14-month fall from grace has seen them introducing players to the big leagues on the basis of hope, rather than conviction. Luke Hughes, Chris Parmalee, Trevor Plouffe, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Drew Butera, Ben Revere, Clete Thomas ... it is a long list of players who were given jobs because of organizational desperation rather than on merit.
Dozier plays and carries himself like someone who understands the game and the baseball life. Today, he plans to look for an apartment with a couple of other new Twins. After one week in the big leagues, Dozier might be the one who should consider buying rather than renting.
"He came from a big college and then went through our whole system like we normally do it,'' Gardenhire said. "He has a knack for making some unusual plays. I saw that a few years ago in spring training. I told them I really like this kid. Even last year, I really liked him a lot.''
Dozier thought about his family on Sunday. He called Jan, his mother, "the best mom in the world.'' He said his grandmother, Mimi, died of breast cancer. He said his family was watching at home in Fulton, Miss. And he said his older brother, Clay, a lefthanded pitcher who hurt his arm and wound up playing outfield at Delta State, was his biggest influence.
"He's two years older than me, and growing up he was a better baseball player than I was,'' Dozier said. "He pushed me without even knowing it.''
Dozier tried to call the flower shop in Fulton to order a Mother's Day gift, but no one answered. A hermetically sealed baseball and a set of fluorescent pink cleats should last longer than flowers, anyway.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org
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