While a lot of people will be betting on the Super Bowl
this weekend, Brian Dozier is looking to show the Minnesota Twins brass and the fans that he is worth betting on for the long haul.
Following his 2011 season, during which he was named the Twins minor league player of the year, expectations were high, maybe too high, for the now-25-year-old shortstop from the University of Southern Mississippi at the start of the 2012 season. After starting the season with a month in Rochester, the Twins promoted Dozier to the big leagues. He made his debut on May 7 against the Angels. In the bottom of the 8th
inning, he came up and singled to center for his first MLB hit. When he returned to first base, Albert Pujols patted him on the helmet and told him, “Congratulations! You look good up there. First of many!”
Dozier certainly experienced some great moments during his rookie season. On May 13, he hit his first big league home run off of Ricky Romero of the Blue Jays. Days later, he hit his second homer against Rick Porcello. Home Run Number 3 game against Chris Sale of the White Sox. He then hit homers against Tommy MIlone of the A’s and Alfredo Aceves before hitting his sixth and final homer of the season off of Cy Young winner David Price.
However, overall, he hit just .234/.271/.332 (.603) and the day after his homer against Price, he was optioned to Rochester where he finished the season.
At Twins Fest, Dozier said, “First time it ever happened to me where stuff carried out into my defense. Trying to change things on offense, I got too much zoned into working on my swing and I got away from my approach. I’ve always been a guy to walk a lot, but my approach was just all over the place, going up there, swinging at pitches I don’t ever swing at. You get away from that. You try to change. You think it’s your swing, but it’s really your approach before you even get up there. “
In addition, Dozier added, “Looking back, I only had two or three bunt base hits. I had about 25 the past two years. I only had eight walks (Seth Note – Actually 16), the year before, I had 60.”
After walking in about 10% of his plate appearances in the minor leagues, he walked less than 5% of the time in his 340 plate appearances with the Twins in 2012.
Beyond the approach, Dozier also fought his mechanics. “I started off and everything was going good. My hands were up here [Dozier illustrated to the group that his hands were up high, above his back shoulder], and then I started dropping my shoulder, and you can’t do that. You really can’t. You just get comfortable up there. I had a little skid, 0-15 or something, and you think it’s your swing. A lot of information, and I started changing way too many things that you shouldn’t change.”
What was Dozier’s biggest take-away from his rookie season?
“You’ve got to be consistent, and that’s the biggest thing I learned. You’ve always heard that preached to you. It comes into perspective in that aspect. You’ve got to be real consistent up here and that’s the big thing that I got away from. But, like I said, after I got sent down, I just had to get back to my roots, being a consistent, sound baseball player. So that’s what I’ve done and I’m good to go.”
Dozier summarized his first big league experience by saying, “It’s a good rookie year for me,” which may seem a bit strange until hear the rest, “I learned a lot.”
It was a full off-season for Dozier. “I went down to Venezuela to get some work in at second base. While I’ve been up here (in Minneapolis), I’ve been working with Molly (Paul Molitor) on turns at second, just to make sure I’m comfortable so when spring hits, whatever Gardy sees fit, and Terry (Ryan).”
Dozier was only in Venezuela for a short time, but it served its purpose. “It was good. I got some work in, especially at second base. I got a few at bats too, but I was really down there just to get some work in at second base.”
He continued, “Normally in the offseason, I work strictly at short, but this time, I spent a lot of time at second base. I didn’t take time off, to be honest with you. I was going to take a little time to re-charge, but you know what, you’ve got to stay sharp. “
He also had a pretty good role model and teammate to talk with. He spent a day this offseason hanging out with Josh Willingham and his family. “We always talk. We hit just two days ago at Target Field.”
Dozier is excited for the opportunity to work with the Twins new hitting coach Tom Brunansky. Brunansky was Dozier’s hitting coach in 2011 at New Britain, and the two worked together again last season in Rochester.
“Joe (Vavra) is awesome, and he’s helped me a lot. But me and Bruno have worked together the past two years. He’s a good one. He really is. (We) have developed a good relationship, not just with baseball, but with everything. He’s a good one, a guy that spent 13 or 14 years in the Bigs, he knows his stuff. He knows it, the grind and everything. I was hitting at the field the other day, and he sneaks in behind me, and right there, he says, ‘I like that. I like that.’ He’s ready to go. He’s fired up.”
Manager Ron Gardenhire said that there will be competition in spring training for the middle infield positions. He also would like to see the situation resolved in camp. “Well, I hope it’s resolved. I mean, I hope we have a little better inkling of it. I think we have some talented people, and we’re going to throw them out there and let them go at it. Try to figure out the best combination, and if it turns out to be combinations, we’ll just go that way. Whatever’s going to help us win ball games, and catch the ball.”
Speaking of the competition in the middle infield, Dozier says, “Competition is good. That excites us. Competing against a bunch of good players, but at the same time, I’m ready. I’ve got a lot to prove.”
Is Dozier under the impression that he is going to be a second baseman? “Let’s not rule out shortstop, first of all, because I feel really comfortable at short.”
As he acknowledged, 2013 will be a big year for Brian Dozier. He learned a lot from that rookie season and hopefully he will be able to take that information, learn from the struggles, and get back to the basics. “You’ve got to make adjustments along the way, but you also have to stay within yourself… I’ve got to get back to sound baseball, and I was getting away from that.”
“We’re good. You guys put that (in your articles). We’re Good!”