FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Brian Dozier went to Venezuela during the offseason to learn how to better play second base.
He’s closing in on completing the mission, with a spot in Minnesota’s opening-day lineup there for the taking.
Dozier hit his first home run of spring training for the Twins during a 6-2, rain-shortened loss to the Miami Marlins on Monday.
In a game cut to 5-1/2 innings, Dozier hit a two-run drive in the first off Nathan Eovaldi. Dozier is batting .243 with five RBIs this spring and in position to start at second base this season for the Twins after failing to become the everyday shortstop last year.
“At second base, he’s doing great,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “And when he’s hitting, he’s a lot better right now. His swing is looking really nice now. He’s not dragging his bat early. He was dragging it on fly balls that were going up in the air. So he’s doing fine. Playing the game, he’s more relaxed. He’s looking more confident.”
The 25-year-old Dozier hit .234 in 316 at-bats over 83 games last season, his first stint in the majors. With the slick-fielding Pedro Florimon emerging late in the season as the front-runner at shortstop for 2013, Dozier was told to focus working at second base. An eighth-round pick in the 2009 amateur draft out of Southern Mississippi, he rose through the Twins system primarily as a shortstop.
“This offseason was a big offseason for me with the position change,” Dozier said. “I went to Venezuela and worked some things out at second base. I’m a lot more comfortable there now. I’m still fighting for the job. The biggest thing is to win the job. Right now, that’s my main focus. Once that picture has been established, I can go out there and see how I do. I’m not there yet. Not yet at all.”
Eovaldi, slated to be the Marlins’ No. 2 starter, allowed five hits in a five-inning complete game. He struck out three and walked two.
“After the first inning, I was able to regroup,” Eovaldi said. “I’m not working on anything specifically right now. I’m just going out there and attacking them. The curveball felt really good. I threw some good changeups, working ahead of the counts.”
Marlins prospect Christian Yelich went 2 for 3 with a home run, his fifth of spring training. Gorkys Hernandez, competing for Miami’s center-field job with Chris Coughlin and Justin Ruggiano, went 1 for 2 with two RBIs.
“I think they’ll come down to the wire, probably,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said of the camp competitions, including the utility infielder spot and the fifth starter. “I want to give these guys as many at-bats as we possibly can and take the guys we feel are best suited for those roles.”
Twins starter Kevin Correia gave up five runs, five hits and two walks in four innings. Minnesota’s Joe Mauer, in his first game back from the World Baseball Classic, went 2 for 3 and increased his average to .429.
Notes: Twins LHP Scott Diamond remains on track to join the Twins rotation on April 12, less than two weeks after the season opener. He threw 24 pitches over two innings in a minor league game on Monday. Diamond has been recovering from offseason surgery to remove bone chips from the elbow. . . . Twins 3B Trevor Plouffe, who has been out with a calf strain, is slated to get three or four at-bats during a minor league game on Tuesday.