Twins manager Paul Molitor has thought about giving struggling All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier a break.
“I think the mental break is almost as important as the physical break,” Molitor said Friday.
But he has been unable to do so, opting to keep Dozier’s potentially dangerous bat in the lineup. But Dozier’s second-half slide can’t be ignored.
After a blistering run at the end of the first half — which helped him reach the All-Star Game for the first time — Dozier is batting .196 over his previous 47 games with six homers and 15 RBI. His on-base-plus-slugging percentage is only .615 during that span. He batted .256 before the break with 19 homers and 50 RBI. His OPS was .841.
Dozier likes high fastballs, and he leads baseball in pulling the ball 61.3 percent of the time. He has struggled to hit the high ones lately, and teams swing their defenses around to left and try to get him to chase outside pitches.
“His strength has been to pull the best fastballs in the game, and I think that is hard to maintain that for 600-plus plate appearances,” Molitor said. “He’s trying to make some adjustments, he’s not getting on top of some balls that he was earlier. The balls he’s hit the hardest have been the pitches where he’s been condensing the zone a little bit.
“So I think he’s trying to change his sights to swing at what he can handle.”
Dozier did have two hits Thursday, including a double on an infield pop-up that wasn’t caught. Friday’s rainout allowed Dozier to get the day off Molitor had debated about.
Twins players and coaches saw replays of Pittsburgh’s Jung Ho Kang suffering a broken left leg and knee damage Thursday when the Cubs’ Chris Coghlan slid into him at second base as Kang attempted to turn a double play. Most agreed that it looked a lot like former Twins infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who was slid into by the Yankees’ Nick Swisher in 2011 and also suffered a broken leg.
Take-out slides have long been normal in the major leagues — some believe one of toughest adjustments for middle infielders from Asian leagues is dealing with contact around the bag. But no one was saying rules should be put in place to reduce those types of collisions.
“I’m not for anyone getting injured,” said third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who was drafted as a shortstop. “At the same time, a shortstop coming across the bag can see everything. That’s your decision to make, if you are going to go for it and stay in there or if you are going to get out of the way. It’s been that way for a long time.”
General Manager Terry Ryan wouldn’t be surprised if the issue is discussed during the offseason. “That doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “I’m not sure if they want to get too carried away with it.”
One slight difference in the plays was that Kang tried to clear the bag when he was hit while Nishioka didn’t.
• Both Molitor and Angels manager Mike Scioscia had quick hooks for their struggling starters Thursday, which happens in meaningful September games. “You don’t want to lose a chance to still come back and win the game by letting someone go too long,” Molitor said. “You have to make those decisions.”
• Three-time All-Star Glen Perkins, who returned to the bullpen Friday after recovering from back problems, will be in a setup role for now. Kevin Jepsen, who blew his first save in eight attempts with the Twins on Wednesday — although the defense didn’t help him — remains the closer. Perkins could return to closing if there’s a stretch in which Jepsen makes several appearances and needs a break. “Kevin still deserves that shot right now,” Molitor said.
• Starting next week, Twins scouts will follow potential postseason opponents. Former Twins manager Tom Kelly, who was at the ballpark Thursday, has been part of the advance scouting group in the past, but he won’t be part of the group this year.