CHICAGO – Brian Dozier successfully stole 18 bases last year in 20 attempts. He was safe in his last 10 thefts of the season. And he went home … unsatisfied.
“Every year, especially the past couple, I always look back and [say], ‘Why haven’t I done more on the base paths?” the Twins leadoff hitter said Friday. “I kind of want to take it to another level.”
So far, that level is one a game, at least in the first three. Dozier swiped a pair of bases Wednesday, then another one Thursday, all off Royals Gold Glove catcher Salvador Perez.
Wait, that’s not right, Dozier corrected. “You don’t steal bases off a catcher, you steal them off the pitcher,” he said.
And that’s his secret, Dozier said. He spent spring training testing slightly longer leads, and he’s doing more homework on each pitcher he may stare at from first base. “Everything I do is calculated. It’s not just go to be stealing. I know the times of every single pitcher, and I know when I can’t make it,” he said. “I’m not going to give away that I’m going to be stealing every time. But for the most part, I’m going to try to be more aggressive.”
That’s OK with manager Paul Molitor, who has essentially given Dozier — who has now successfully stolen second base 13 consecutive times — permission to run whenever he likes.
“He was really aggressive this spring. I think he was trying to prove he could still lead off,” Molitor joked. “He’s not our fastest guy, but he’s more adept than anybody else at knowing what he can do, knowing how to find an edge, and picking the right time to go. Good judgment, good instincts, good breaks.”
New bullpen tradition
Dinner was over and the check had come. Pitchers in the Twins bullpen put their credit cards into the middle and had the waiter draw one out. But there was a problem. The waiter came back moments later and told Taylor Rogers … what exactly?
“I have no comment on that,” Rogers said Friday, trying not to laugh.
Yes, the Twins pulled a prank on their young lefthander Thursday, convincing the steakhouse waiter to present Rogers with a comically inflated bill of several thousand dollars and the news that his card had been declined. It wasn’t until he called his bank to try to raise his limit, another pitcher said, that they let him know it was all a joke.
Welcome to the bullpen dinner, a new tradition Twins relievers intend to conduct in every city on every road trip this season.
“This bullpen is a really tight-knit group. We like being around each other. It’s going to be a fun year, and we just want to keep picking each other up,” said Ryan Pressly, in his fifth season with the Twins. “We’re kind of caged out there together, so you’d better get comfortable being around each other. We want this to be a family.”
Twins relievers went to dinner a couple times last year, but with the addition of veterans Matt Belisle and Craig Breslow this year, and the emergence of Brandon Kintzler as the closer, there are leaders who see the benefits of functioning as a unit.
“The camaraderie you feel out there, it helps everyone,” Rogers said. “We’re all rooting for each other.”
Well, until the check comes.
Castro’s night off
Molitor chose to bench one of his hottest hitters Friday, giving catcher Jason Castro the night off while Chris Gimenez caught Phil Hughes. Part of the reason was that Chicago had lefthander Derek Holland on the mound, but partly it was because Molitor doesn’t want to put too much stock in three games.
Yes, Castro is 3-for-6 with six walks entering Friday, but “you try the best you can to not get too wrapped up in momentum, in how a player’s playing,” Molitor said. “Chris hasn’t gotten a start yet. I thought it was a good matchup to catch Phil.”
Gimenez delivered a single to center in his first at-bat, too — his first hit in April since 2012.