“There’s just been a hesitancy with Alex, and I think he’d tell you he’s working on that. Sometimes you get caught a couple of times in a row, and you become more tentative the third time,” Molitor said. “I’ve tried to get him to extend his lead a little bit. You know, every field you play on, you should find a spot on the grass in front of you where your normal lead is. We’ve worked on a couple of things to make him more explosive. I think he’s peeling back the layers of hesitancy little by little.”
The first priority
So is Hicks, though the second-year outfielder is blunt about his biggest problem: his .192 batting average last year.
“For me, it’s all about getting on base. I feel like I can steal bases if I give myself the opportunities,” Hicks said. “I believe I should steal 30 a year.”
Dozier would like to reach that neighborhood, too. His steal count and success rate, he said, were dampened by minor knee problems last year. But he’s also got another consideration: Batting in front of Joe Mauer, a former batting champion who hits a lot of doubles, makes Dozier less aggressive.
“You don’t want to run yourself out of innings. I can score on a double,” he said. “I was a little timid at times last year, but I’m learning how to balance the risk and pick my spots. I’ve got to steal more, and I intend to get better at it.”
That’s the attitude Molitor is looking for.
“There have been some balls in the dirt I’ve been disappointed we haven’t gone on, and some deep flies where guys jog to second instead of reading it as a deep catch and tagging up. But overall, I think most guys are showing progress,” Molitor said. “At the very least, we’re trying to experiment a little bit so we learn about better decision-making. As [former manager Tom Kelly] says, the only mistake you can make in spring training is not trying some new things.”