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Off All-Star season, Twins' Dozier eager to improve

SIOUX FALLS -- Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier says he's guided by a personal mantra in his approach to the offseason. "Any time you stop trying to get better, you might as well hang them up," he said Tuesday in a Winter Caravan stop ...

Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier speaks with the media during a Winter Caravan stop at the Elmen Center in Sioux Falls on Tuesday. (Marcus Traxler/Republic)
Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier speaks with the media during a Winter Caravan stop at the Elmen Center in Sioux Falls on Tuesday. (Marcus Traxler/Republic)

SIOUX FALLS - Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier says he's guided by a personal mantra in his approach to the offseason.

"Any time you stop trying to get better, you might as well hang them up," he said Tuesday in a Winter Caravan stop at the Elmen Center on the Augustana University campus in Sioux Falls.

Getting better, for Dozier, would mean improving upon a season in which Dozier, 28, was an American League All-Star, but also saw a noticeable drop off in offensive production in the second half of the season.

Dozier finished the 2015 season with a .236 batting average, a team-high 28 home runs and drove in 77 runs. He had an on-base plus slugging average of .751, an OPS which dropped 90 points from the All-Star break mark of .841. When he was picked for the All-Star game in July, Dozier had 19 home runs and 50 runs driven in.

The team had 83 wins - good for the Twins' first winning season since 2010 - and Dozier said the taste of success has driven him to succeed in the upcoming season.

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"The beautiful thing about last year, and it was the first time I experienced it, but for the last two weeks and the last month of the season, we were in the mix," he said. "For my first three seasons, September rolled around and it was, 'When are we going home?' I got a taste of the atmosphere and the fans coming together and all you're worried about is playing the game and winning."

One of the season highlights for the Twins was Dozier's selection to the All-Star game, a platform which he took full advantage of when he had an eighth-inning pinch-hit solo home run to center field in Cincinnati off Pittsburgh's Mark Melancon. That helped the American League to a 6-3 victory.

Dozier became the 16th player to hit a home run in his first All-Star game at-bat and the first player to hit a pinch-hit homer in the All-Star game in eight years. When the home run was replayed to the crowd of 600 people at the caravan stop, the Twins fans in attendance cheered loudly.

Dozier said he wanted to work on his agility and quickness in the offseason, primarily with an eye on improving stealing bases. The Mississippi native had 12 steals in 2015, following a season in which he had 21 stolen bases in 2014.

"I love to steal bases," he said. "I kind of got away from that last year and the baserunning aspect of the game is important, that's where runs are scored. That was a big part of my offseason and my training was trying to get faster and get myself prepared on the bases."

The Twins could use improvement on the bases this season. They were 20th in baseball last year with 70 stolen bases and 23rd in the league with a 64.8 percent stolen-base success rate.

Twins radio broadcaster Dan Gladden expects Dozier to be a player who is counted upon as a leader in 2016 and beyond, specifically filling the role previously held by Torii Hunter, who was widely considered a key clubhouse presence for the team.

"He's one of those younger guys who has come into a leadership role," Gladden said. "With Torii Hunter now retired, he's got that leadership quality that every club needs. I think it's time for Dozier to get that experience."

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Dozier said the Twins have a much-needed experience of being in a playoff race after the 2015 campaign.

"To get over the hump, we obviously have to carry over the way that we finished the season last year," he said. "We were in the mix until the end of the season and now it's a matter of finishing the deal."

Related Topics: MINNESOTA TWINS
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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