Twins plan to ease Mauer, Dozier into lineup
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Don't look for Joe Mauer in the Twins lineup until the middle of next week.
"Would you believe Wednesday?" Twins manager Paul Molitor said on the eve of Friday night's Grapefruit League opener against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Similarly, second baseman Brian Dozier isn't scheduled to see his first game action until Sunday or Monday as the Twins seek to navigate a prolonged spring schedule due to the World Baseball Classic.
"Get some of these young bucks out there," Dozier joked. "Just the fact (this spring) is so long. There's no need. There will be plenty of at-bats. The key is to just kind of pace yourself."
While Dozier mentioned needing only 35 to 40 spring at-bats to get himself ready, Mauer goes by feel. Fully recovered from the quadriceps injury that plagued him over the final seven weeks last season, Mauer understands Molitor's thinking.
"I'm kind of champing at the bit but also want to be smart," Mauer said. "We're going to hold off for a bit. I feel good. Just try and keep it that way."
Four years ago Mauer played in the WBC, so the longer spring schedule wasn't as much of a concern. In his MVP season of 2009, when he declined a WBC invitation because of injury, he didn't open his regular season until May 1.
"I don't want to do that," he said. "Go back to that '09 (season), I had 10 days to get ready, and I've had these type of springs where you have a lot more time. I think it's a lot more feel than a specific number (of at-bats), but definitely toward the end of camp I like to ramp it up."
Since the 2012 spring, Dozier has averaged 55.6 at-bats with a high of 68 in 2013. Over Mauer's past four non-WBC springs, he has averaged 48 at-bats, with a high of 56 in 2012.
"It's a longer camp," Mauer said. "We're playing games in February. I think the goal is to be firing on all cylinders April 3. I think that's smart. Same with Dozier, maybe give him a little breather when we can."
New Twins catcher Jason Castro will start Friday's opener and catch right-hander Kyle Gibson for the first time in game action.
Over the past five seasons with the Houston Astros, Castro has averaged 40.6 spring at-bats. The range has been between 38 and 43 at-bats each year during that span, but it might tick up closer to 50 at-bats this year, Molitor said, as Castro gets a chance to work with a new pitching staff.
"Obviously a difference this year is that familiarity," Molitor said. "We're trying to get him exposed to as many pitchers as we can and focus more on starters than relievers along the way. It's going to be part of how and when to play him."
New bats for Park
Byung Ho Park sat recently at his locker wrapping blue handle tape around his new shipment of BMC bats.
The South Korean company has supplied him in the past with fielding and batting gloves, but this is the first year they have been a licensed bat manufacturer for Major League Baseball.
Still using a two-tone look, the type Park favors, the new shipment of maple and ash bats includes a lighter-colored handle and a varnished wood-grain look for the barrel. Park is sticking with a 34-inch, 31½-inch model with a cupped end.
"I don't know the model in detail," he said through a translator. "I just requested the same tree and similar style."
Closer Glen Perkins has been playing catch with young right-hander J.T. Chargois and helping him tweak the grip on his slider to develop more consistency.
Perkins also encouraged Chargois to throw his slider with less pace during flat-ground sessions so he can better see the shape of the pitch. Has Chargois now adopted Perkins' slider grip?
"That's proprietary," the three-time all-star said with a smile.
• Molitor announced his tentative lineup for Friday's spring opener: CF Byron Buxton, SS Jorge Polanco, 3B Miguel Sano, 1B Kennys Vargas, DH Byung Ho Park, RF Max Kepler, LF Eddie Rosario, C Jason Castro and 2B Ehire Adrianza.
• While lefty Hector Santiago will face Mexico on March 11 in Jalisco for Puerto Rico's WBC entry, Twins teammate Jose Berrios has been informed he will start the following day against Italy. New York Mets right-hander Seth Lugo will get the ball in the WBC opener for Puerto Rico on March 10 against Venezuela.