Dozier answered Twins' challenge in 2013
Infielder responded to 2012 disappointment with bounce-back campaign
MINNEAPOLIS -- Brian Dozier will always remember the phone conversation he had with Twins general manger Terry Ryan and manager Ron Gardenhire after the 2012 season.
Dozier was making the long drive home to Mississippi from Minnesota, and was frustrated about not being one of the club's September callups after being optioned to Triple-A Rochester in mid-August.
Ryan and Gardenhire understood Dozier's frustrations, and told him what he needed to improve while reassuring him that he was still part of the club's future plans despite his struggles as a rookie.
"We talked for a while and they talked about some of the inconsistencies I had and what I needed to work on," Dozier said. "They kinda just reassured me, and said, 'Hey, we still like you, even though we didn't bring you up.' That was good to hear that from those two guys but, at the same time, you still have to work hard."
After being named the organization's Minor League Player of the Year in 2011, Dozier's rookie campaign didn't go as planned in '12, as he hit just .234/.271/.332 with six homers, 11 doubles and nine stolen bases in 84 games. He also made 15 errors in 83 games at shortstop.
He was struggling enough that the Twins decided to send him back to Triple-A Rochester in mid-August, and he didn't fare any better there, so the Twins opted not to bring him back up for the final month of the season.
It sent a message to Dozier that he still had plenty of work to do, and it gave him the motivation to work toward a bounce-back season in 2013.
"You always have a little chip on your shoulder, to be honest with you," Dozier said. "To say I was OK with not coming back up last year, I'd never say that because I wasn't. It kind of made me mad. But at the same time, you have to prove yourself. So last offseason I did a lot of work and made some adjustments."
That hard work in the offseason paid off, as Dozier was one of the club's few bright spots last season.
He seamlessly made the move from shortstop to second base, and showed surprising power, hitting .244/.312/.414 with 18 homers, 33 doubles and 14 stolen bases in a team-high 147 games.
Dozier's 55 extra-base hits ranked fourth among all Major League second basemen behind only the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter, the Yankees' Robinson Cano and and the Indians' Jason Kipnis, and ranked ahead of All-Stars such as Boston's Dustin Pedroia and Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist. His 18 homers also set a new club record for a second baseman.
Defensively, he also shined, as his .992 fielding percentage ranked tied for fourth among qualified second basemen in the Majors. He also ranked first in assists with 461, third in putouts with 267 and second in double plays turned with 99.
Among advanced metrics, Dozier ranked fifth among MLB second basemen in Defensive Runs Saved with nine while leading all AL second basemen in Range Factor with 5.22, which is calculated by dividing putouts and assists by innings played.
His performance led to a host of postseason honors for Dozier, who will be taking home two Diamond Awards in January at the club's annual Baseball Writers' Association of America dinner. He was named the team's Most Improved Player, receiving the Charles O. Johnson Award, and was also the winner of the Mike Augustin "Media Good Guy" Award.
He was also named the Twins' Wilson Defensive Player of the Year, which is an award determined by using a formula that balances scouting information, sabermetric analysis and basic fielding statistics.
So this offseason has clearly been kinder to Dozier, but he's not ready to congratulate himself quite yet, as he knows he can still improve after putting together his first solid season in the Majors.
"I think I'm happy with it but not satisfied, especially playing a defensive position I hadn't played before," Dozier said. "I made some strides but to say I'm satisfied -- you can always get better."