Dozier continues home-run tear

The Twins' Brian Dozier circled the bases after hitting a solo home run off Indians starter Scott Kazmir in the sixth inning Friday.

Photo: Tony Dejak, Associated Press

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– Since the Twins don’t have a bona fide leadoff hitter, manager Ron Gardenhire is relying on daily matchups to determine his first hitter.

“Just try to mix it up as best you can,” Gardenhire said. “The lineup is what it is, you just try to put people in spots.”

The Twins faced a lefthanded starter on Friday for the third consecutive game, so they went with Brian Dozier once again. And Dozier came through with his third homer in three games and fourth in five games when he connected off Scott Kazmir in the sixth inning.

The run began Wednesday, when the Gardenhire was looking for somebody, anybody, to lead off against White Sox ace Chris Sale. Dozier was written in the top spot in the order, homered off Sale and led the Twins to a victory.

On Thursday, the White Sox started lefthander John Danks. Dozier batted lead off, homered again and the Twins again went on to win.

Dozier is just swinging well right now. In addition to punishing lefthanders, Dozier entered Friday batting .375 during his five-game hitting streak with three home runs, seven RBI and a 1.586 OPS.

He entered Friday fifth among AL second basemen in home runs. One of those ahead of him is Cleveland’s speedy Jason Kipnis, who has nine.

The Twins have been encouraging Dozier to be more aggressive at the plate recently, and it is paying off. “I like him up there,” Gardenhire said.

Perhaps Dozier is just the hot hand right now, regardless if the pitcher is lefthanded or righthanded?

Hicks getting close

Aaron Hicks is not on the road trip to Cleveland and Miami. He has his own travel plans.

The rookie outfielder will leave the Twin Cities on Monday and head to Louisville, where he will meet up with Class AAA Rochester and begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment.

Hicks landed on the 15-day disabled list June 10 after straining his left hamstring at Washington. He has been increasing his activities at Target Field to the point where he is ready to play in games. Since he was promoted from Class AA New Britain in spring training straight to the majors, it will be Hicks’ first appearance with the Red Wings.

It will be interesting to see how long Hicks needs at Rochester before he’s ready to rejoin the Twins. Clete Thomas entered Friday batting .286 in 13 games.

Carroll in

Jamey Carroll started at shortstop Friday instead of Pedro Florimon, who is batting .228 overall and .103 righthanded.

“Righthanded, it has not been great,” Gardenhire said. “Lefthanded, I still feel confident that he can do it.”

Gardenhire has been looking for a spot to start Carroll anyway, and Friday was a good time for a good reason. Carroll entered the night 6-for-10 in his career against Kazmir and promptly hit a double off him in the third inning.

Etc.

• It’s Indians Hall of Fame day at Progressive Field on Saturday night. Former second baseman Carlos Baerga and General Manager Jim Hart will be inducted before the game.

• Josh Willingham started in left field for the second consecutive game Friday, a sign that the cortisone shot he took in his left knee Sunday is working. He had to be the designated hitter Tuesday and Wednesday because the knee was slow to respond to the medication. The past couple of days have been better. “He’s going to play until he tells me he can’t play,” Gardenhire said. “He hasn’t said that. He said, ‘I feel fine. It’s getting better.’ ”

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