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La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller report on the Twins from wherever they make news

Dozier to have MRI; Ryan sees 'lots of areas to upgrade'

    Brian Dozier will have some tests done on a sore hip, Twins general manager Terry Ryan said Tuesday, in order to make sure there is nothing structurally wrong. But the soreness is not considered serious, Ryan said, and the magnetic resonance imaging test is more a precaution than a precursor to surgery.

    Other than Dozier’s MRI, the Twins came out of their end-of-season physicals with no problems that need to be addressed, Ryan said at a wrapup press conference.

    With the season finished, Ryan now heads into an off-season that he hinted might be busier than fans expect. The Twins may have narrowly missed making the playoffs, he said, “but we’ve got a lot of areas we’d like to upgrade.”

    There’s not one specific position the Twins will target like they did the past two winters, when they made starting pitching a priority, the GM said. But he’s not satisfied with merely contending for a playoff spot, Ryan said, nor is he willing to simply wait for young prospects to develop.

    The team’s scouts and executives will gather this weekend in Fort Myers, Fla., for their annual organizational meetings, and Ryan said he expects some important decisions to be made, if not at the meetings, then shortly thereafter. Among them: whether Trevor May’s switch to the bullpen becomes permanent; whether to pursue any of the team’s five free agents (Torii Hunter, Brian Duensing, Mike Pelfrey, Neal Cotts and Blaine Boyer); and where Miguel Sano might wind up.

    That latter one is a conundrum for the Twins, because the rookie slugger “cannot get into the mindset that he’s just a DH,” Ryan said. But Sano’s minor-league position, third base, is filled by a productive veteran, Trevor Plouffe, and the first-base incumbent, Joe Mauer, has three years remaining on his contract. Ryan said he expects a solution to be found by spring, but gave few hints what that might be.

    May, too, will be informed of the Twins’ intentions before spring camp opens in February, Ryan said, even though the 26-year-old righthander said he will prepare for either role. May prefers to return to the starting rotation, however.


Postgame: Molitor wants to cut down on strikeouts, increase steals

    Three extras from the final game of 2015 at Target Field:

    Paul Molitor is proud of what the Twins accomplished this season, but he’s already begun thinking about what they can do better next year.

    For one thing: Strike out less.

    “I’m not one who accepts the trend of [increasing] strikeouts in baseball,” the Twins manager said. “Offensively, that’s something I’m going to push, in terms of how we can improve.”

    The Twins finished with 1,264 whiffs this season, fifth-most in the American League. That’s also the third-most in franchise history, trailing the 1,430 strikeouts of 2013 and last season’s 1,329.

    Another area Molitor will target is one he hoped to address before this season: Base running.

    “We probably need to take advantage of our athletes and our speed a little bit more,” he said of a season in which the Twins stole only 70 bases and were caught 38 times, a 64.8 percent success rate. “I think we have a chance to be a team that combines power with putting pressure on you.”


     Molitor had suggested starting Torii Hunter in right field, or having him pinch-hit, or sending a replacement out to allow him to walk to the dugout to a big ovation, but the 40-year-old Hunter rejected all such notions. Molitor even called Hunter again Sunday morning to make sure he hadn’t changed his mind, but the veteran said he didn’t want a manufactured “moment.”

     “I’ve had my moment,” he said.

    Well, he got another one anyway, during the seventh-inning stretch, when the Twins surprised him with a career highlight video on the scoreboard.

    “It was very sentimental,” said Hunter, who emerged from the dugout to acknowledge a standing ovation. “I kind of looked up there and got emotional, just looking at how far I’ve come,” Hunter said.


    Torii Hunter’s son Torii Jr. did not make the trip to Minneapolis after all Sunday, deciding he was too tired after catching a touchdown pass for Notre Dame in the final minute of the Irish’s 24-22 loss to Clemson on Saturday night. 

    Torii Sr. was watching the game at home with friends and “I went crazy” after the four-yard touchdown pass, he said. “We tore the house up. Then the quarterback ran the ball and we tore it up again.”

     QB DeShone Kizer was stopped short of the end zone on the two-point conversion try, costing Notre Dame the win.

    It also cost Hunter a bet. The proud father had bet a South Carolina native, KSTP cameraman Parker Anderson, on the game, with the loser having to wear the winning team’s t-shirt and hat and pose for pictures. Hunter paid off, grudgingly, after the game.

    — See you next spring.

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