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Updated: March 5th, 2012 4:43pm
Zulgad: Twins call potential audible on where Ryan Doumit will play

Zulgad: Twins call potential audible on where Ryan Doumit will play

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Ryan Doumit found himself in unfamiliar territory Monday night.

The Minnesota Twins versatile veteran was scheduled to play his first professional game in left field.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how it's going to go," Doumit said before the Twins faced the Boston Red Sox in a spring-training game at Hammond Stadium.

So were the Twins.

When Doumit signed a one-year, $3 million free-agent contract in November, it was advertised as a move that would bring a guy who could take over at catcher if Joe Mauer again failed to stay healthy in 2012.

Doumit also arrived with the expectation that he would be able to play right field and first base, as well as serve as the team's designated hitter.

Doumit, who was limited to only 77 games last season with Pittsburgh because of a broken ankle, hit .303 with eight home runs and 30 RBI in 218 at-bats. The thinking was that Doumit's bat, combined with a collection of gloves would make him a valuable acquisition.

That remains true, but it appears the game plan has changed a bit.

Doumit is no longer a lock to play at first base.

The Twins remain pleased by the fact that they can add a player with Doumit's position flexibility to their roster. The team could end up keeping three catchers, six infielders and four outfielders because Doumit's presence means they wouldn't need a fifth guy who is only an outfielder.

This improves the Twins' options for infield depth.

But what happened to having Doumit on the depth chart behind Morneau at first base?

"That's not one of the positions he likes," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We said we were going to give him some work there. I'm not ready to put him in a game yet. He really hasn't done much first base."

Doumit, who will turn 31 on April 3, made it clear that he wasn't in love with the idea of playing first during an appearance on "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" during TwinsFest. Doumit did not complain one bit about the possibility of the position but discussed the difficulty of playing it. He reiterated those same points on Monday.

Doumit has first-hand knowledge on this subject. He played 28 games (27 starts) at first for the Pirates in 2006, his second big-league season. That number declined to seven games (five starts) since 2007.

"There's more than meets the eye with playing first base," said Doumit, who is scheduled to catch Scott Baker on Tuesday in Port Charlotte when the Twins face Tampa Bay. "A lot of people just assume that you go over there and catch the ball when it's thrown to you. But it's difficult. I've played probably about 30 games over there in my career and it's really not one of my favorite positions.

"Of my list, I would probably list that at No. 4 of the positions I'm going to be playing. I'd probably rank that one my least favorite. It's tough. It's a position that takes a lot of work."

Asked to elaborate on particulars, Doumit said: "Getting adjusted and if it's not something that you've done (a lot) it's kind of tough to get it down. The little intricacies of getting your footwork in position. From taking a throw from third, shortstop, second base. Knowing where you need to be on cutoffs and relays. There's a lot that goes into it."

Gardenhire did not seem annoyed in the least that Doumit might not play first and, in reality, it's not that big of deal. Mauer, Luke Hughes and Plouffe can all play there, giving the Twins multiple options behind Morneau.

Doumit said he still expects to get some spring training work at first, although it's not clear if that will be just off to the side.

First base, or left field for that matter, aren't the only challenges for Doumit.

His biggest transition might be serving in the designated hitter role. Keep in mind, Doumit has spent his major league career with the Pirates and was only used as a DH on 12 occasions during interleague play. Half of those at-bats came in 2005.

"It will certainly be an adjustment," said Doumit, a career .271 hitter with 67 home runs and 266 RBI.

Doumit discussed the fine line he's going to walk when he's DHing between paying attention to what's going on during the game and keeping himself loose and ready for each at-bat.

"I will probably have to find a way to keep myself busy," he said. "Whether it be going down to the tunnel and just taking some dry swings, staying moving. I'm not one to just sit around. I can't just sit around and watch. So I'm pretty giddy, especially during the season when the adrenaline is going, so I see myself constantly moving.

"That's a switch that's really hard to turn off and on. You can't just say, 'OK, I'm hitting now, let's get ready.' Then, 'OK, I'm not hitting turn it off.' The approach that I would take, I would try to get into the game as best I could maybe from placing myself out there. Always knowing the situation, always knowing where our guys should be as if I was out there. So it would kind of keep me as if I was in the game." 

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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