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Updated: March 29th, 2013 2:21pm
Mackey: Twins won't do it, but it makes sense to bat Joe Mauer second

Mackey: Twins won't do it, but it makes sense to bat Joe Mauer second

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wrote out an interesting lineup at JetBlue Park on Thursday night.

1. Aaron Hicks, 2. Joe Mauer, 3. Josh Willingham, etc.

Mauer in the 2-hole -- a place he has been penciled in only 73 times in 1,065 career major league games.

It seems logical. Mauer, a man who reaches base more than any hitter in baseball, setting the table at the top of the order -- along with Hicks -- for big thumpers Willingham, Justin Morneau and others.

But according to the rumblings in Fort Myers, it's likely Brian Dozier who will occupy the No. 2 spot in the batting order when the regular season begins next week.

I'm not sold on this idea.

There's a good chance Dozier will increase his production from last season, and it's absolutely worth noting he owns a career minor league on-base percentage of .370. He has the potential to be a very solid major league hitter. But Dozier struggled in his major league debut last season, posting a .234/.271/.332 batting line in 84 games.

Mauer is the perfect No. 2 hitter. His main strength is getting on base -- something he does 40% of the time. Mauer is an elite hitter no matter where he is in the lineup, but he is not a power hitter. He is a table setter.

With rookie Hicks set to lead off, and with no proven high-OBP hitters on the roster to slot into the 2-hole, why not slide Mauer up?

Historically, moving Mauer up just isn't something Gardenhire likes to do, no matter what the rest of the roster looks like.

The Twins have been fortunate enough a couple times in recent history to have two leadoff-caliber hitters at the top of the order at the same time.

With Denard Span batting leadoff most of last season, Ben Revere was penciled into the No. 2 hole for 79 games, posting a .340 on-base percentage. Jamey Carroll posted a .330 OBP in 42 games in the 2-hole.

The Twins had a similar luxury at the top of the order in 2010 with Span and 2-hole hitter Orlando Hudson, who reached base at a respectable .338 clip.

But in years where there is no obvious No. 2 hitter on the roster, Gardenhire has a history of playing musical chairs with anybody but Mauer.

In 2011, 11 different Twins hitters combined for a .289 on-base percentage in the 2-hole -- .40 points below the American League average.

In 2009, the Twins used four different hitters (aside from Mauer) in the 2-hole, all of whom reached base at an underwhelming clip -- Alexi Casilla (.220), Matt Tolbert (.299), Brendan Harris (.242) and Orlando Cabrera (.314).

If there is a logical, high-OBP hitter to slot in the 2-hole ahead of Joe Mauer, so be it.

But Dozier, Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar have yet to prove anything in the big leagues. Jamey Carroll doesn't project to start. Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee fit better further down the lineup.

It makes sense to have Dozier prove himself in the 8-hole for a month before moving him up. If he shows adequate plate discipline, reward him by moving him up.

With Mauer in the 2-hole to start the season, the Twins can be assured they won't waste outs and kill rallies at the top of the order.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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