The Minnesota Twins have gone through a few changes coming into the 2013 season. There are new faces on the mound, in the infield and roaming the green grass outfield of Target Field. Perhaps the most surprising change for fans was catcher Joe Mauer batting in the No. 2 spot on Opening Day Monday.
It wasn't an April Fool's Day joke; Mauer was really batting second -- something he had only done in 10
games since 2009. After Brian Dozier had batted in that position all during spring training, manager Ron
Gardenhire announced that Mauer would bat second and Dozier would move to eighth.
"I believe we're going to have Joe Mauer in the 2-hole," Gardenhire told the Star Tribune. "We're trying
to kind of ambush people."
In a slight change of philosophy, the Twins manager wants his five-best on-base regulars stacked up at
the top of the order. Before the game on Monday, general manager Terry Ryan reiterated that Gardenhire wants to jump out ahead of teams by frontloading the lineup.
He said he didn't know if it was a permanent arrangement, but that it would be up to Gardenhire's
discretion and have a lot to do with how both Mauer and Dozier perform.
"Just have to get ready one batter earlier," Mauer said to the Pioneer Press before the game. "I told
Gardy this: I don't have a problem wherever he puts me in the lineup as long as I'm in the lineup. Whatever
gives us our best chance of scoring runs. Hopefully we get some runs today."
Well, one game is not a huge sample size, but if Monday's opening game is any indication, the change
might work well for Mauer. Against the Justin Verlander-led Tigers, Mauer was 2-for-4 (including a double) with a walk, and he reached base on an error in five at-bats. Coming into the game, he was a career .316 hitter with a .373 OBP in 77 games in the No. 2 hole.
"As I (said), I wanted him to bat first, second and third, but I can only bat him in one place,"
Gardenhire said. "We chose second. (For) more at-bats, all those types of things."
Dozier did not fare as well batting near the bottom of the order. After batting .279 in spring training
in the 2-hole, Dozier went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk in his debut as the eighth batter.
Regardless, with Gardenhire's idea to frontload the lineup, Mauer's success will be a huge determining
factor on whether it continues.
"As Bruno (hitting coach Tom Brunansky) and I talked, we talked about 'ambush,' " Gardenhire said. "So we're going to ambush 'em at the top with all these hitters and go from there. At least for today. We can always adjust as we go along."