On Sunday, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said his team needs to “fix Brian Dozier.”
On Monday, Dozier was not in the lineup.
His .199 batting average and pull-happy approach earned him a deserved spot on the bench for the series opener against Kansas City.
Manager Paul Molitor intimated that Dozier might get multiple days off. The two met before the game to discuss his decision.
“He’s earned the right to be talked to when I decide to sit him down for a day or two,” Molitor said. “You want to get these guys back on track. Sometimes taking a step back is the best way to do that.”
In a season of disappointment for almost every player in uniform, Dozier’s disappearance might trump them all. The All-Star second baseman looks lost — defiant is probably more accurate — at the plate as he attempts to yank every pitch down the left field line.
His struggles shouldn’t be dismissed as merely a slump. This represents a trend at this point.
Dozier hit .210 with nine home runs and a .359 slugging percentage after the All-Star break last season. His production has continued to nose-dive the first quarter of this season.
That’s a serious problem, not a slump.
“The results will come,” Dozier insisted.
He steered the conversation to his leadership, a nebulous point that he’s tried to stress lately. Dozier’s willingness to accept that role in Torii Hunter’s wake is admirable, but leadership without production often rings hollow.
Dozier fumed after a recent loss that he needed “to get some things off my chest” in a team meeting. But what does a guy hitting .199 say that will rally the troops?
Dozier revealed that Hunter called him Monday morning for an hourlong conversation that was “100 percent mental.” Dozier declined to give too many specifics, other than to say Hunter’s words were helpful.
“Good leaders aren’t always hitting .300 with 20 homers,” Dozier said. “That kind of opened my eyes to the way I can continue to lead this team when I’m not doing so well.”
Here’s another way: Be more willing to hit the ball to the opposite field.
Dozier’s insistence on pulling everything — even as pitchers have adjusted to him — comes across as stubborn. Yes, he’s had some success with that mindset, but failure should compel one to embrace change.
Only 13 of the 120 balls put in play by Dozier this season have gone to the right side, resulting in three hits. Three.
“I won’t say he won’t go the other way,” hitting coach Tom Brunansky said. “In his mind, he likes to do damage. He senses that a home run is bigger than a base hit. Sometimes we have to get the base hit to get the home run.”
Both Brunansky and Molitor indicated that Dozier is trying too hard to produce, presumably prompted by his own struggles and the team’s collective ineptitude.
Whether that’s the case, Dozier likely will continue to fail, unless or until he addresses his shortcomings.
To that end, he worked extensively on hitting the other way during early batting practice with Brunansky on Monday.
“It’s not about shooting singles the other way,” Dozier said. “It’s a lot more than that. So I’ve got to make adjustments.”
Dozier altered his positioning in the batter’s box earlier this season, but Brunansky noticed bad habits appearing again against Toronto over the weekend.
“Trying to pull pitches that he shouldn’t probably try to pull,” Brunansky said. “We know he’s a pull hitter. Everybody in the league knows that. But as we talked about, some of the pitches that he’s getting, especially in big situations, they’re not going to make mistakes in[side].”
Brunansky said Dozier must “walk before you can start to run” in improving his approach. Molitor described it as “just trying to get a little more out of him.”
Maybe he got the memo when his name wasn’t in the lineup.