9/3: Dozier's Quest for 40, Murphy Called Up, Sano's Defensive Drills and More

Brian Dozier has been far and away the best player on the Twins this year, but if you had to trade him, what would it take? (Photo credit: Brian Curski)

Greetings from Target Field where once again it is a perfect day for (imperfect) baseball. Hector Santiago (10-8, 4.93 ERA) faces off against righty James Shields (5-16, 5.86 ERA) of the Chicago White Sox. Both pitchers have struggled a bit to acclimate to their new settings.

“He’s had another four days of rest for that thumb, which is a good thing, even though he had a really nice game, even with a little bit of those symptoms lingering,” said Minnesota Twins manager Paul Molitor.

“You try to imagine, even a guy who’s been around a bit, going to a new club and trying to get acclimated and get comfortable and contribute. And I think in his previous starts before the last time, he gave up runs early. Home runs, or whatever the case might be, and sometimes those outings regressed.

“I think it was a case last time where he went out there aggressively, and I think with every time he was able to record an out or get through an inning, you could see him just kinda gaining a confidence that he was gonna be able to make pitches to get himself through a good outing.”

Shields has played well in previous stops with the Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals, but struggled after signing a 4-year, $75 million deal with the San Diego Padres and was traded to the Chicago White Sox in June.

“He’s had a nice career,” said Molitor. “We’ve seen him plenty in the past. He’s also in a situation coming to a new club, and his stuff, he still throws the same pitches. When you’re getting hit a little bit, it’s probably you’re not getting it to where you want to as consistently as you have when you had a little bit better run.”

Murphy gets the call up

John Ryan Murphy, who was on the opening day roster, was recalled from Triple-A Rochester today, where he played 82 games with the Red Wings and hit .236/.286/.323.

“It’s good to have him back,” said Molitor. His year was trying in terms of coming out of spring and having trouble getting going here offensively. It continued down there for a while. He had a fairly good finish to his Triple-A season, I’m hoping some of that confidence emerges up here.”

Murphy gives Molitor a third option at catcher behind Kurt Suzuki, who is 32 and may not be on the team next year, as well as Juan Centeno, a replacement-level player (career WAR: -0.2).

“With Kurt and Juan, and Murphy now, it’s just gonna be trying to give them all a chance to some degree,” said Molitor. “It certainly eliminates any fear I might have of pinch-hitting for one of those guys if the situation warrants it, and having some protection on defense running with that third catcher.”

Molitor got specific when asked what Murphy needs to work on.

“Well, Spring Training through the start of the season, it’s just repetition of the swing and not getting pull-conscious. He likes to expand the zone up a little bit, hits the ball in the air the opposite way,” he said.

“He’s got enough strength, and he’s got enough bat speed to be a decent hitter, and we still believe that. Sometimes overcoming a tough start is as much mental as it is physical.”

Dozier power

Photo credit: Brian Curski, Cumulus Media
Photo credit: Brian Curski, Cumulus Media

With 33 home runs on the season, 40 homers is not out of the realm of possibility for Dozier.

“I hope that he just kinda lets the rest of the year unfold. It’s tough to force those things,” said Molitor. “It’s something that’s out there only because of the fact that he’s had incredible power here over past five weeks.”

Asked if sitting Dozier in May, when he was hitting below the Mendoza line, assisted him, Molitor acknowledged that Dozier might have been taking on too high of a workload.

“It’s one of those things [that] we’re still learning about how much is too much for guys that play everyday. When we didn’t have cages, it wasn’t really an issue back in the day. But now these guys have access to their cages no matter where you are, and they get into those routines of things they do everyday, and it involves a lot of swings,” said Molitor.

“Early in the day. BP. A lot of these guys hit right before the game.”

“I think the more you get comfortable with in your own skin with what you’re doing, and your confidence that you can minimize, you start multiplying those swings over days and weeks and months and years — they’re gonna take a toll,” he added.

“It’s one of those things where more isn’t always better, you just gotta learn how to practice the right way. There are times when you might need a little bit more work than others, and times where things are going good, you shouldn’t feel like you have to do your routine to maintain it — you’ve gotta get that confidence.”

Sano working on defense

Time will tell whether Sano can become an everyday third baseman in the major leagues. For now, he’s working on the fundamentals and will be at the hot corner tonight.

Asked specifically about what he’s working on, Molitor said it varies day-to-day in order to keep it fresh — and presumably because he’s got a lot to work on.

“Sometimes it’s first-step quickness, sometimes it’s footwork. Everything from angle to the ball to where he’s gonna make a play — first, third, off-balance. We’ve worked on plays where he has to step on plays and throw to first, slow-rollers. We did pop-ups too,” he said.

“We’re trying to keep it fresh for him. He’s been more than willing to go out there almost every day. He’ll be out there tonight, I’m hoping playing defense helps him a little bit. When you’re not swinging particularly well, it has a tendency to be a little bit more of a trendy role, because you’re hot and you don’t think about it, or you’re cold and you’ve got 45 minutes between each at-bat and you’re worried about the next one.

“So we’re gonna get him out there and try to play defense and see if that helps a little bit.”

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