ANAHEIM, CALIF – Twins manager Paul Molitor is not afraid to shuffle his lineup, but the one he put out on Thursday was an eye-opener.
Molitor overlooked the short-term task of ending a four-game losing streak to take the big-picture view of keeping his players as fresh as possible for the long haul. Torii Hunter received another veteran’s day off, which happens when you’re a man of a certain age. But Molitor didn’t start Brian Dozier, his most vital hitter, either.
With Aaron Hicks batting leadoff and Shane Robinson and Eduardo Nunez getting starts, the lineup was drastically different.
“To be honest with you, after I got done typing it up, it looks funny,” Molitor said. “You kind of get comfortable with certain people who are dependable guys. When you change it up, it gives you a different look.”
Dozier, batting .256 with 20 home runs and 53 RBI, was told Wednesday night that he would not start Thursday. He went into Molitor’s office before Thursday’s game and told him he wanted to play, but Molitor stuck to his plan.
“It’s not my idea,” Dozier said. “You’ll have to ask him.”
Dozier missed just his second game this season. Molitor pointed out that Dozier showed signs of wearing down late last season.
He’s right, as Dozier hit his 20th homer Aug. 10 last year but hit just three homers and slugged .389 the rest of the way. Molitor did say that Dozier tried to address his durability during workouts last offseason.
But Molitor still felt the time was right — although the timing didn’t seem right.
“Brian is a guy who is not happy about not playing,” Molitor said. “Last year, watching his second half compared to his first half, there’s going to be some days where [resting him] makes sense.”
Trevor Plouffe’s wife, Olivia, is expected to give birth to the couple’s first child in the next few days. It’s unclear how much time off Plouffe will need, but it could be an opportunity for Miguel Sano to get a start or two at third base.
Either way, Sano looks like he’s in the lineup to stay. His at-bats are more professional than a chunk of the roster, and some numbers back that up.
Entering Thursday, Sano was seeing 4.12 pitches per plate appearance, which is better than any of the regulars. Dozier is next at 4.07.
“It seems like he’s learning to let the game come to him,” Molitor said.
Sano drew 11 walks through his first 14 games. That’s already more than Eduardo Escobar (nine through 67 games), Nunez (seven through 39), Robinson (eight through 55), Eddie Rosario (eight through 60) and Danny Santana (five through 65).
The game Wednesday against Pittsburgh was not originally on the television schedule, but now it will be shown on Fox Sports North.
Ricky Nolasco, recovering from right ankle surgery, was fitted with a walking boot Thursday. He remains out indefinitely.