MINNEAPOLIS — The roles of a leadoff hitter and cleanup hitter are seemingly very different. The former is more associated with getting on base, while the latter is primarily responsible for driving runs in — perhaps with some power.
Because of the contrast in skills associated with each spot in the lineup, it’s not often a player hits in both spots in the order in any given year. Twins second baseman Brian Dozier is a rare exception.
Though Dozier has now settled comfortably into the leadoff spot atop Minnesota’s lineup, he did spend more than a week as the Twins’ cleanup hitter. None of the team’s other No. 4 batters — Trevor Plouffe, Torii Hunter, Kennys Vargas and Kurt Suzuki — would make a whole lot of sense hitting first.
That’s what makes Dozier’s game so much different. His versatility on offense and ability to produce in a number of places in the lineup have been a bonus for first-year Twins manager Paul Molitor.
"He’s definitely a catalyst for us. He has shown that he has the ability to hit in more than one role in the lineup," Molitor said. "He’s one of those guys that you like to have because he can fill more than one role. But right now I think the best flow is to keep him up there here in the short term and see where we go."
Monday’s game against Boston marked Dozier’s 26th game this season in the leadoff spot. In that role, the 28-year-old second baseman is batting .287 with a .358 on-base percentage and a .620 slugging percentage. Eight of his team-high nine home runs this season have come when he’s batted leadoff. Only Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson has more homers (9) in that role.
On top of his power numbers, Dozier is also among the league leaders in runs scored with 35. Only Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals has scored more (39 runs) than Dozier, who is tied with Toronto’s Josh Donaldson for the American League lead.
"I guess there’s a sense of being at the top, I feel like I can implement a lot more things, create a lot more things, whether it’s setting the table, so to speak, running the bases," Dozier said. "Everything’s more involved in that kind of game.
"But at the same time, obviously, whatever (Molitor) sees best fit for the day, I’ll go with. I kind of like it better at the top."