ST. PETERSBURG–The Twins’ position in the playoff race may be a surprise to many fans and media members, but the players are a confident bunch. The feeling in the clubhouse seems to be that this team belongs in the playoffs, and even with a few setbacks recently, they’ve clearly played like a group that believes they’re a playoff caliber team, despite the club selling at the deadline.
It’s easy to forget, after last season’s 103-loss debacle, that the team was in a similar position in 2015, sitting one game out of the second wild card with three games to play. Brian Dozier, though, said this year feels very different than 2015.
“It seems like it would compare, but it really doesn’t,” Dozier said. “[In] ‘15, the energy was always good. But it didn’t have the same feeling as what we have in here right now. It was always an uphill battle. This year I feel like after we got over the hump in spring training of ironing some things out that we needed to, and once we gained some confidence in the first month of the season, it’s kind of like we’ve owned the fact that we feel like we’re pretty good. The feeling in here with these guys is totally different. We expect to be in the playoffs.”
A big reason for the Twins being where they are is how hot Dozier’s been at the plate since the all-star break. Although he hasn’t quite hit at the Ruthian level he was at in the second half last year, he’s slashing a robust .301/.394/.597 with 15 home runs since the break. Prior to the break, he was hitting .242/.328/.417.
Dozier bristled a bit when I suggested that he was a streaky hitter. The numbers certainly suggest that’s been the case over the past three seasons, but he noted there are a lot of factors that go into a slump or a streak that get overlooked.
“I think that’s kind of every hitter,” he said of being a streaky hitter. “There’s a lot of different elements that play into all that stuff rather than just looking at numbers. Injuries. There’s a lot of different intangibles in this game that we don’t tell the media.”
Dozier, like most players, doesn’t like using injuries as an excuse. “You got to cowboy up,” he said, referencing the 2004 Red Sox’ motto. My personal opinion is that he was pretty banged up leading into the all-star break, and he seemed to acknowledge that.
“I’m not going to go into detail about anything, but it was the most needed break I’ve ever had in my career. I had a lot of things that needed to heal,” he said.
Like most players this time of year, he’s still probably playing through pain. It hasn’t impacted his bat, though, and his play is a big reason the Twins are where they are.
Jason Castro credits Joe Mauer with helping in his recovery from a concussion
Jason Castro pinch hit late in the game Monday and was behind the plate Tuesday. Monday was his first appearance since going on the DL for a concussion he suffered August 23. Castro said there was some talk about making a couple of rehab appearances, but he ultimately felt like it wasn’t needed.
“We talked about it,” he said. “I caught some bullpen work. In the grand scheme of things, seven, eight days really wasn’t too much. I think I’ll be fine. There were probably 3 or 4 days when I wasn’t doing a whole lot and just letting symptoms calm down. But then doing some light stuff and just building up to where I’m at now has kind of helped with that portion of it.”
Castro, who said this was probably his first concussion, consulted with Joe Mauer on how to deal with symptoms and what he should focus on in the rehab process.
“We talked about some things that kind of helped speed along the recovery from it,” he said of his conversations with Mauer. “Really focusing on some neck stuff, and just trying to be loose. When you take a shot to the head sometimes you don’t realize the impact on your neck that it has. So, I was trying to get some work done on that, and that kind of helped with some of the symptoms.”
Glen Perkins on his progress
Glen Perkins now has five big league appearances under his belt since coming back from his shoulder injury. He’s struggled in a small sample size since his return, giving up 6 earned runs in 3.1 IP. Now that he’s in the big leagues, the next step in his rehab process is building up innings in the majors as he continues to work his way back.
“I am [still in the rehab process] in a way in just that I need appearances,” he said. “I’m sure there’s probably more in the tank as far as stuff and those things that will come with throwing more. I feel good. I haven’t thrown a ton, which is understandable. When I have thrown I haven’t thrown very well. But it doesn’t keep me from continuing to work and improve and get better.”
Perkins said that while his velocity hasn’t increased recently, he’s no longer having outings where he’s unable to get above the high 80s.
“I haven’t climbed any higher, but I feel like the bottom’s come up,” he said of his velocity. “I’m not throwing 87, 88. I think the last time out every time I was over 90. I’m not too concerned with how high I get as long as there’s life on the ball.”
Given the impact a torn labrum has on pitchers (it’s considered a much more serious injury than a torn UCL, which requires Tommy John surgery), it’s not surprising Perkins has struggled in his first few appearances after a 16-month layoff. Whether he’ll be able to contribute meaningful innings down the stretch remains to be seen. For now, though, Perkins is glad he’s back in the big leagues, after suffering a number of setbacks while rehabbing.
“My goal as this year dragged along was to just get back,” he said. “I want to help out, but I also understand that there’s guys here that have done a good job all year. I’ll take my opportunities when I get them, and that’s completely okay with me. I just hope to improve each time out.”