Twins' Willingham gets mental break

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Twins left fielder Josh Willingham

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune file

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Twins outfielder Josh Willingham, his batting average plummeting and his frustration building, did not start Sunday’s game against Boston.

Willingham finished April batting .250. In May, he is batting .132 with a .208 slugging percentage. He has not homered in 75 plate appearances. Overall, he’s batting .198 with five home runs and 18 RBI. At the same point last year, Willingham was batting .298 with eight homers and 24 RBI.

He was visibly frustrated after a couple of his at-bats during Saturday’s game against the Red Sox, so manager Ron Gardenhire decided it was time to give Willingham a mental break.

“He was a little fired up [Saturday night],” Gardenhire said. “I haven’t seen that out of him too often. So take a break.”

The break didn’t last. Willingham struck out in a pinch-hit appearance Sunday, and a Dustin Pedroia hit bounced off his glove and over the left field fence.

With Willingham struggling, Justin Morneau has been moved up to third in the batting order.

Dozier adjusts

Gardenhire praised Brian Dozier’s defense as second base but also pointed out that the second-year infielder is hitting the ball into the air a little too much.

Dozier is batting .128 over his past 10 games, so hitting coach Tom Brunansky has been working with Dozier on making some mechanical adjustments that the Twins hope will lead to more line drives.

Gardenhire was encouraged by what he has seen from Dozier in batting practice.

“We know the kid can hit,” Gardenhire said. “He just has to carry it into the game.”

Jamey Carroll, swinging a hot bat recently, started at second on Sunday. Gardenhire indicated that Dozier would be back in the starting lineup soon.

Suited for NL action

Twins pitchers have taken batting practice and worked on their baserunning in preparation for the interleague series at Atlanta this week. But it just so happens that the Twins’ three scheduled starters are imports from the National League — Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey and Vance Worley.

“That’s strategy,” Gardenhire joked.

Pelfrey is a career .098 hitter with no homers, 13 RBI, and 24 sacrifice hits. Worley is batting .153 with no homers, seven RBI and nine sacrifice hits. Correia is batting .116 with no homers, 12 RBI and 41 sacrifice hits.

“They know what they are doing,” Gardenhire said. “They can handle the bats. … Not as much of an experience for them as it is for guys who have been in our league.”

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