|Brian Dozier is to|
take over as the
Diamond replaces fellow rookie Liam Hendriks as the fifth starter. I touched briefly on that in the Monday print column, and I'm sure I'll have more to say about it in the next day or so.
Today, let's talk Dozier, who Ron Gardenhire said Sunday on his radio show will be his everyday shortstop now. Dozier turns 25 next week, he's a right-handed hitter, he was an eighth-round pick as a college senior (most collegians sign as juniors), and he shot up the ladder pretty quickly, never spending a full season at any minor league level.
Unlike Diamond (or Hendriks), Dozier wasn't a September call-up last year; the Twins didn't have to put him on the 40-man roster last winter, so they saved the roster spot. So tonight figures to be Dozier's major-league debut.
The word out of spring training was that Dozier was the best defensive shortstop in camp, and Ron Gardenhire appeared to favor making him the shortstop then. The Twins stuck with the offseason plan of Jamey Carroll at short (and Alexi Casilla at second) because:
- Dozier had about a half-season of Double A ball on his resume and no time in Triple A;
- The two veterans were expected to be better hitters than Dozier;
- By delaying Dozier's debut, the Twins depressed his service time and perhaps put off his arbitration eligibility.
|Jamey Carroll turns a double play Saturday|
against the Mariners.
Carroll has been a competent defensive shortstop for the first month or so of the season. And durable, too; he's played all but one inning in the field, which would be fairly impressive for a shortstop a decade younger (Carroll is 38).
But Carroll hasn't hit -- slash line .206/.306/.237. He has drawn 13 walks, second on the team to Joe Mauer, but .306 isn't a good on-base percentage for anybody, much less a top-of-the-order guy, and he's not a power threat.
Dozier isn't going to fix the offense. But one can reasonably expect him to do better than a .543 OPS (Carroll) or .597 (Casilla), whichever comes out of the lineup to make room for the rookie. Dozier may be only a marginal upgrade in the field and at the plate, but even a marginal improvement helps.
Adding Dozier gives the Twins a legitimate middle infielder on the bench, which may have the indirect effect of helping Trevor Plouffe. Remember, part of the idea of moving Plouffe to the outfield was to replicate what happened to Michael Cuddyer when he made the move from infield to outfield. With the defensive burden lifted, Cuddyer became a better hitter. Plouffe hasn't had that improvement happen yet; he hasn't really had that opportunity. He's been pressed into service as the backup infielder as well as a part-time outfielder; instead of decreasing his defensive responsibilities, the Twins increased them.