Zulgad: After a tough year, Brian Dozier has a plan and a new position
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Brian Dozier didn't arrive in Minnesota 2½ weeks before TwinsFest began last month because he enjoys winter weather.
Dozier showed up because he wanted to continue his offseason education into the art of playing second base and he had a pretty good teacher waiting for him, at an indoor facility, in the Twin Cities.
"Me and Molly worked together," Dozier said, referring to Hall of Famer Paul Molitor. "That's not a bad guy to get some advice from. ... That was the biggest thing, working with him. Then I went down to Venezuela for a few weeks and worked a lot at second base."
Dozier dedicated himself to becoming a second baseman this offseason because he knows if he's going to make the Minnesota Twins roster this spring it almost certainly will be at that position. Dozier arrived at Target Field last season as a shortstop but there appears to be a good chance that Pedro Florimon will end up at that spot.
Twins general manager Terry Ryan and manager Ron Gardenhire both talked to Dozier after the 2012 season about wanting to see him play second and Dozier ran with the idea. This despite the fact he only played the occasional game at second in the minors and did not play there in college at Southern Mississippi.
"Personally, it doesn't matter to me," Dozier said Thursday. "Obviously, I grew up as a shortstop and I learned a lot at that position last year. But at the same time, I guess I've taken more of my reps at second base (of late after) talking with Terry and Gardy. ... I feel really, really comfortable at both."
So what's the biggest difference?
"One of the biggest things I had to get used to this offseason is that as a shortstop you see everything in front of you," Dozier said. "Little things (at second), covering the bag, seeing how fast the runner is running down the line, it's all out of your peripheral (vision) and stuff. I got used to that. That's probably the biggest thing. But at the same time you pick up on your double plays and all that kind of stuff pretty easy."
No matter what position he plays, making things easy, or at least easier, will be a key for Dozier because that is something he was not able to accomplish last year in his first go-around with the Twins.
The Twins recalled Dozier last May and installed him as their shortstop, moving veteran Jamey Carroll to second base. (Dozier and Carroll will compete for the second base job this spring.)
Dozier, an eighth-round pick in the 2009 amateur draft by the Twins, drove in 13 runs in his first 23 games but hit only .227. A confidence issue began to develop, but it wasn't Dozier's performance at the plate that was the main problem.
Dozier's range and instincts had served him well in the minors and helped him overcome an arm that wasn't all that strong. But Dozier played deeper at short than Gardenhire wanted and ended up making 15 errors in 84 games.
The Twins decided to ship Dozier back to Triple-A Rochester in mid-August a few days after he made a highly questionable play by throwing to first base on a slow roller in the 10th inning of a game against Tampa Bay. Dozier should have attempted to turn a double play on the ground ball.
Tampa Bay scored the go-ahead run on the play and went on to win the game.
Dozier, 25, did not like the decision at the time, but he used the demotion as an opportunity to try to get right.
"At the time it did stink, but at the same time I got to kind of get back to my roots so to speak," he said. "I went down there the last couple of weeks and kind of threw stats and results out the widow. I made sure that defensively, offensively I got back to being the player I guess I was when I started the season. With my confidence level, with everything and to get back on track and get down there with a good group of guys. It worked out well."
Dozier's lack of confidence when he left the Twins was a concern in that it created an unknown of how he would respond. Some players learn from tough situations and come back stronger and some pout.
Baseball is a game that features plenty of failures and the key is for a player to manage the highs and lows and not allow them to dictate his performance.
"One of my biggest things that people have always preached and everything, but it kind of really hit home for me last year, was how consistent you have to be up here in the big leagues," Dozier said. "I'm not going to say that you kind of get away from that in college or the minor leagues, but up here you put so much more emphasis on it.
"You really have to be consistent day in and day out. Of course you have to make adjustments along the way but be sure to stay within yourself with making adjustments and being consistent. That was the biggest thing for me."
Dozier's point was a good one but he was quickly reminded this is very easy to say and a bit harder to do in the midst of the grind that is the baseball season.
"The biggest thing is never take plays off," he said in explaining how he planned to follow through on his plan. "Pitch-by-pitch, everything. Mentally, physically, whatever it may be. Like I said, making adjustments along the way. Tweaking your swing or anything like that. Not going overboard, trying to stay on a consistent level day in and day out.
"It is a long season and you're going to have your ups and downs. But keep a level head the whole way and make sure you make the routine plays. ... You're going to make your outstanding plays, all that kind of stuff. You don't have to be perfect when it comes to the routine plays, but you have to be pretty close to it. That's the biggest thing. Make sure you draw your walks, make sure you get your bunts down, everything. Those things add up over a 162-game season and that's the biggest thing I got from last summer."