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Dozier homers, but Twins fall to Marlins

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sports Willmar, 56201

Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

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.

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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. It was the Twins’ fifth loss in their last six games.

In a game cut to 5½ 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.

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.

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