Twins Bullish On Multi-Talented Brian Dozier





MINNEAPOLIS—The Twins will enter the offseason with no position settled in their infield, and in a late-August radio interview, manager Ron Gardenhire added another name to the mix.

"Brian Dozier has had a great season," he said. "I want to take a look at him, too."

If the Twins do audition Dozier at shortstop next spring, then the notion will run contrary to recent history. The organization has looked outwardly to acquire a starting shortstop in each of the past four seasons, bringing aboard Adam Everett in 2008, Orlando Cabrera in 2009, J.J. Hardy in 2010 and Tsuyoshi Nishioka this season.

The Twins drafted Dozier as a Southern Mississippi senior in the eighth round in 2009, so he's already 24 years old.

"He's probably had the best year of any (Twins) player in the full-season leagues," farm director Jim Rantz said of the organization's 2011 leader in runs (92), hits (157), triples (12), total bases (241) and stolen bases (24). "He started hitting right away this year and never stopped."

Dozier finished this season with Double-A New Britain, turning in a .318/.384/.502 batting line that included seven homers and 22 doubles in 351 at-bats. He earned his promotion from high Class A Fort Myers in early June by batting .322 in 218 at-bats, with more walks (27) than strikeouts (20).

"He's got a dependable glove in the middle of the infield, and he's starting to add a little gap power," Rantz said.

Gardenhire, himself a former middle infielder, agreed, saying, "(Dozier's) done a good job catching and throwing, and that's important."

Dozier sat out a week in June after being hit in the nose by a pitch, breaking a bone. But the Tupelo, Miss., native bounced back quickly. "He's pretty durable," Rantz said, "and that's something that's a little underrated sometimes."

TWIN KILLINGS

• The Twins fired Triple-A Rochester manager Tom Nieto and hitting coach Floyd Rayford after successive 90-loss seasons. Pitching coach Bobby Cuellar was asked to return to the Red Wings next season.

• Broadcaster Josh Whetzel, voice of the Red Wings, handled the radio play-by-play for the Twins' Sept. 19 game in Yankee Stadium alongside longtime Twins broadcaster John Gordon, who is in his final season.