Trade bait Brian Dozier feels history ready to repeat
MINNEAPOLIS — The 2017 Minnesota Twins careened into the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline on a 5-12 skid, walked off in the last three. After falling from three games over .500 and 2½ games out in the American League Central to three under and seven out, the brass traded closer Brandon Kintzler to Washington for a prospect and international bonus pool money.
Feeling the rug pulled from under them after a surprisingly good first half, the Twins responded by winning 8 of 11 and jumping back into the wild card race, ultimately winning the AL's second spot for their first postseason berth since 2010.
Brian Dozier swears he feels history repeating.
The red hot subject of trade rumors heading into the July 31 non-waiver deadline, the Twins second baseman says it's too early to give up on what has been a disappointing 2018.
"Everyone keeps talking about trade deadlines and trades and selling and all this; this game can turn in a minute," he said. "And I have a feeling it's turning now."
The Twins started Tuesday, July 10, on a five-game winning streak and 8½ games behind Cleveland in the AL Central. After a 1-8 road trip through Chicago and Milwaukee, the Twins were 13 games under .500 and 12½ out of first — going nowhere with a roster that includes eight veterans on pace to become free agents at season's end.
Dozier, an all-star Gold Glove winner with a 42-homer season on his résumé, is among a small handful those who could likely help a contender down the stretch and in the postseason.
"I'm not just giving you clichés here but I don't even pay attention to it, because there are so many things out there that are false — people trying to create stories and all that stuff," he said Tuesday. "I recognize the business side of it. I recognize what's at stake. I do recognize all that stuff.
"But with the momentum we have now, and the potential of getting this thing back rolling, I'm still in the mindset that I don't see us doing anything except maybe trying to find ways to get better."
The Twins swept a four-game series against Baltimore, the worst team in baseball, over the weekend and won the opener of a three-game series against division rival Kansas City on Monday.
The problem, of course, is that the Twins had a wild-card berth to play for last season; this year's wild card teams will likely come from the AL East and AL West, where the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros and Mariners are winning big. Seattle, currently holding the second wild-card spot, is 23 games over .500.
The Twins would have to overtake Cleveland in the Central to make the playoffs this year.
"We've played better," manager Paul Molitor said. "Just looking for signs of life; the heartbeat was a little hard to hear, but I think we've responded. You don't want to get overly excited, but I think it's what we needed to do this home stand. We'll keep pushing."
The Twins have six games left on the 11-game home stand against the Royals, last in the Central, and Tampa Bay Rays, two games over .500.
"It's a huge home stand," Dozier acknowledge. "This is kind of the make-or-break home stand, just because of that's the nature of the game now, and I think we've responded well. Don't let us get hot."
Ervin Santana, the returning No. 1 starter who hasn't pitched in the majors this season because of Feb. 6 finger surgery, was scheduled to pitch at Class AA Chattanooga on Tuesday.
After that, the right-hander is scheduled to pitch with Class AAA Rochester Sunday on regular rest, Molitor said.
Does that mean his next stop would be Minnesota after the July 16-19 all-star break?
"It's two more starts, and it's kind of like his spring training, building up," Molitor said. "We're going to have to think about when the right time will be eventually. From what we learn from these next two starts, we'll obviously have a conversation after that."
With left fielder Eddie Rosario among the five AL players eligible to earn the final spot for the July 17 all-star game in Washington, D.C., the Twins have put on a full-press charm offensive. Rosario was one of eight Twins to participate in a Wiffle ball home run derby on Nicollet Mall on Tuesday afternoon, and CBS' "The Bachelorette" star Becca Kufrin of Prior Lake was scheduled to attend Tuesday's game as part of a promotion the team is calling "Accept This Rosie."