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The Sports Xchange, Published April 16 2014

Dozier can hit, but Twins hope for all-around game

MINNEAPOLIS – Second baseman Brian Dozier has proven he can hit the long ball.

His four home runs put him among the American League leaders in that category over the first three weeks of the season. Last season, he hit 18 homers – the most for a regular second baseman in franchise history.

But the Twins view him as more than just a power threat. They hope he can one day become a guy who can be counted on to hit for average, too.

“Ultimately, we’d like to see him get that average up and get on base a little more as the leadoff hitter,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Home runs are going to come with his swing – it’s short, it’s to the ball and when they make a mistake with the breaking ball, he can pull the ball. In this ballpark, if you can pull the ball like that, you can do some things.”

Dozier and the Twins got a day off Wednesday. Their game against the Toronto Blue Jays was postponed due to expected inclement weather and cold temperatures in the Twin Cities.

The game will be made up at 6:10 p.m. today as part of a split doubleheader at Target Field. The Twins and Jays were already scheduled to play a 12:10 p.m. game.

Where the Twins have already seen a lot of improvement from Dozier is in the field. When he came up with the Twins in 2011, he was a shortstop. Minnesota shifted him to second base last season, and he immediately became a plus-defender.

Although he still has two years before becoming arbitration-eligible, there is a belief Dozier could be a candidate to sign a long-term contract with the Twins. But it won’t be cheap.

The San Diego Padres on Monday re-signed their second baseman, Jedd Gyorko, to a five-year extension worth $35 million. Gyorko’s offensive statistics outpace Dozier’s only slightly, but Dozier is the far better defensive player.

Contract extension talks haven’t progressed past the exploratory phase, but it’s clear the Twins believe Dozier is an important core piece moving forward.

“I think he can be a .275 or even a .300 hitter,” Gardenhire said. “He’s a pretty good all-around player.”