Twins Wednesday: Dozier intriguing leading off

MINNEAPOLIS — Lost in the shuffle of Joe Mauer’s four-hit night on Tuesday was the performance of the guy hitting ahead of him in the Twins’ lineup.

Second baseman Brian Dozier led off against the Angels, his first career start as Minnesota’s leadoff man. His 2-for-4 night was enough to convince manager Ron Gardenhire to put Dozier back in the leadoff spot for the second straight night Wednesday, before the game was canceled due to inclement weather. 

“He wasn’t overwhelmed by it at all,” Gardenhire said of Dozier. “He’s been swinging good lately. That’s kind of why I put him there. He’s been putting some swings on some balls. It’s not always about the hits, it’s about the quality at-bats, and he’s been having those.”

Dozier had a quality at-bat his first time to the plate, although it ended in the first out of the inning. He worked a 10-pitch at-bat against Angels starter Jason Vargas before flying out to center field.

In all, Dozier saw 29 pitches in his five plate appearances, an average of 5.8 pitches per plate appearance. Patience at the plate was always part of Dozier’s game in the minors — he had a combined .399 on-base percentage with two teams in 2011 and drew 55 walks that season. He served as a leadoff hitter for a good part of his minor league career.

“I think it’s more prototypical of the type of hitter I am to begin with, because I like to see a lot of pitches and I like to try to get on base, especially for the big guys behind me,” Dozier said of hitting leadoff. “And also get a chance to steal some more bags, stuff like that. I like it.”

After his 10-pitch at-bat in the first inning Tuesday, Dozier drew a walk in the second inning and had base hits in the fourth and fifth innings. He drove in a pair of runs with his fifth-inning, two-out single.

Rookie center fielder Aaron Hicks began the season as the Twins’ leadoff hitter but struggled at the plate, so Minnesota changed it up Tuesday and put Dozier in the leadoff spot. Gardenhire said he hopes to eventually get Hicks back at the top of the order once the young center fielder regains his confidence.

“I can’t predict. I can only put them down there and try to do what’s right for the players and for our ballclub right now,” Gardenhire said. “We’ll see. Our preference is to have Hicks be our leadoff man and run from there, but right now we just moved him down a little bit to see if he can have some quality at-bats and not think about too much and just swing.”

Arcia rejoins the big club: Outfielder Oswaldo Arcia made his major league debut on Monday against the Angels when he took the roster spot of Wilkin Ramirez, who was gone on paternity leave. Arcia was optioned after Monday’s game and rejoined Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday.

But after outfielder Darin Mastroianni was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday night, the Twins recalled Arcia. He was back in Minnesota’s lineup Wednesday, batting seventh and playing right field.

“He’s been all around the world, getting a lot of mileage. I hope he’s got it on his credit card,” Gardenhire said. “Right back in it, ready to go again. Put him right back out there and see what happens. He can swing it. He’s not afraid to. He’s excited to be back.”

Arcia was 1-for-3 in his MLB debut Monday. In 10 games with Triple-A Rochester, he hit .394 with three home runs and eight RBI.

Willingham back in the lineup: Twins left fielder Josh Willingham missed the last two games with flu-like symptoms but he was scheduled to be back in Minnesota’s lineup for Wednesday’s series finale, batting third, before the game was postponed. 

“He came in and said he was ready to go, ready to play,” Gardenhire said. “He said stick him out there, so he’s in. He’s feeling good, had his rest yesterday, stayed around, actually didn’t look great at the end of the game last night. His color wasn’t completely back but he said he was willing to go in if I needed him to go in and then he came in right away today and said he’s ready to go.”

In 11 games this season, Willingham is batting .222 with two home runs and five RBI.

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