Twins tell Dozier: Earn your way back

Assistant general manager Rob Antony said shortstop Brian Dozier "would have a great game, then all of a sudden you wonder what he was doing the next three games."

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Shortstop Brian Dozier struggled with consistency on defense, so he has returned to Rochester.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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The Twins hoped to solidify the shortstop position this season, but Tuesday's demotion of prospect Brian Dozier -- and promotion of defense-first infielder Pedro Florimon -- have created another layer of uncertainty at the position.

Florimon doesn't mind that few in the organization see him as a long-term solution at shortstop. His major league career consists of four games with the Orioles late last season, so the 25-year-old is thrilled to be getting another chance.

"I have good defense and I'm going to keep it the same way here, too," he said. "I have played before in the bigs, and I want to have a great time and have fun and play the game."

Dozier's demotion with only a few weeks left in the minor league season -- although Class AAA Rochester has an outside chance at an International League playoff berth -- reflects the Twins' frustration with his inability to smooth out his play.

Dozier was batting .234 -- and a paltry .271 on-base percentage -- with six homers and 33 RBI in 84 games. The Twins believe his swing had gotten long. But offense was just one problem.

He struggled with consistency on defense, committing 15 errors. There were times the Twins believed his concentration was lacking. He would be out of position on some plays and fail to make routine plays at others. He at times underestimated the speed of baserunners.

With the Twins leading 3-0 July 8 at Texas, Dozier's ninth-inning error fueled a three-run rally that enabled the Rangers to tie the score and then win in extra innings.

With the bases loaded in the 10th inning Sunday, Dozier made the wrong decision on where to throw after fielding a grounder, enabling the Rays to score the go-ahead run.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire believed Dozier's confidence was down and that he needed time to regroup.

"I think he will relax a little bit," Gardenhire said. "I think we all saw him overwhelmed the last few days after that play [against the Rays].

"That's not the reason we sent him out of here. That's just another one in a line ... he needs to go relax little bit and get his swing back to where it was. He was frustrated with it at times, carrying that swing out there to defense."

The Twins have made it clear to Dozier that he has to earn his way back. If he's not playing well when rosters expand in September, he will not be one of the callups.

"You have to go down there and play, and you have to get after the game," Gardenhire said. "You have to show some improvement with your swing, and we'll see in a couple of weeks. He has to earn it."

Assistant General Manager Rob Antony (GM Terry Ryan is with Rochester) delivered that message to Dozier, who said he understood.

"This gives us an opportunity to see Florimon, and it gives us an opportunity to get Dozier down there and get his confidence back," Antony said. "He had his defensive lapses, he's had some bad at-bats. He would have a great game, then all of a sudden you wonder what he was doing the next three games."

Since 2007, the Twins have used 12 players at shortstop. They opened this season with Jamey Carroll, 38, at the position, and they believed he would be the bridge to Dozier. But Carroll was batting .208 in early May, and the timetable was moved up. The Twins summoned Dozier, who was batting .276 with a homer and 12 RBI in 28 games with Rochester.

Florimon opened the season with Class AA New Britain, where he batted .283 with two homers and eight RBI in 30 games. He moved on to Rochester, where he batted .251 in 83 games with three homers and 27 RBI. Florimon was a nonroster invite to spring training, where he impressed with his glove.

"This guy can pick it," Gardenhire said. "I think you're going to be excited about the way this guy catches the baseball. I'm excited to see what happens."

Florimon is not considered the shortstop of the future; Dozier is. It should not be forgotten that Dozier looked ready for his shot in spring training.

But like many prospects before him, Dozier needs more work at the minor league level.

So the Twins' shortstop project is on hold once again as Dozier tries to make the needed adjustments in Rochester.

"You get there and you have two choices," Gardenhire said. "You can pout that you are down there, or you can get after it. Once you go get after it, you see the results.

"As Dozier says he's 100 percent sure, I'm 100 percent, sure that he's going to get down there and get after it. I think that's his makeup. I think he is going to play."

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