CHICAGO – Brian Dozier has become the new leadoff hitter now that Aaron Hicks has been moved to the bottom third of the batting order. It seems like a tough assignment for Dozier, who took his rookie lumps while batting .234 during a call-up last season.
He’s not really tearing the cover off of the ball right now, batting .209.
But Dozier said Saturday that he’s more than comfortable batting at the top of the order. He first batted leadoff while at Class A Fort Myers, then did it extensively at Class AA New Britain. He offered a glimpse of what he can do in that spot on Tuesday when he fought through a 10-pitch at-bat before flying out in the first inning.
He saw 19 pitches over his next four at-bats, drawing a walk and hitting two singles. In five plate appearances, Dozier saw 29 pitches.
On Saturday, Dozier popped out in two pitches, drew an eight-pitch walk, bunted for a single, struck out and fouled out. He saw 20 pitches in five plate appearances.
It’s not just about taking pitches, it’s about what happens when you swing the bat. And Dozier feels he’s in a better position to be a table-setter this season than last season.
“Absolutely,’’ he said, “because my whole approach has changed. Everything, as far as knowing what kind of hitter you are.’’
The Dodgers’ A.J. Ellis leads baseball in working a count, seeing 4.48 pitches per at-bat. Twins catcher Joe Mauer is second at 4.47.
The Twins hope Hicks can repair his approach enough to return to the leadoff spot. But if Dozier can have productive at-bats, it will be a boost to the offense.
“You do want to make him throw,’’ Dozier said, “but, at the same time, you don’t want to fall behind 0-2. Sometimes, if a guy has a good track record of the first pitch down the middle, you have to take your shot.
“That’s how my approach has changed.’’
Back to work
After an off day and two rainouts, the Twins played baseball on Saturday.
“Early All-Star break,’’ Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I think everyone is rested.’’
There’s a belief that sinkerballers struggle with extra off days because they might be too well rested, overthrow and can’t get the baseball to sink. Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey, Scott Diamond and Kevin Correia all rely on sinkers, so this could be dangerous.
“I think it depends on pitcher to pitcher,’’ Gardenhire said.
That turned out to be true. Worley held the White Sox to one run over seven innings on Saturday.
The one pitcher Gardenhire is worried about is Diamond, who is scheduled to start on Sunday.
“A guy like Diamond is more of a concern because he came ... into spring training behind [because of] the surgery,’’ Gardenhire said. “He was on a routine and now this is going on his eighth day [since last start].’’
Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson returned to the club Saturday after spending a few days in Washington state to take care of family issues. Bullpen coach Bobby Cuellar handled the staff in Anderson’s absence.
• Righthander Cole De Vries (forearm) made it through his bullpen session on Saturday and will leave for Fort Myers on Sunday to continue his rehab.
• Josh Willingham’s single in the third was his first hit off Jake Peavy in 17 career at-bats.