His knee healthy, Washington Nationals newcomer Brian Dozier used the early week of spring training to fix some swing flaws.
“Still kind of tweaking a couple things to get rid of some bad habits I created last year,” Dozier said. “In all, everything’s going as planned.”
The left knee bone bruise the 31-year-old Dozier estimates bothered him for 85 percent of last season kept him from firmly planting and staying behind his front leg during a swing, preventing him from driving the ball.
Entering his eighth season, Dozier’s 172 career home runs — including 42 in 2016 for Minnesota — rank third most among active second basemen behind Robinson Cano and Ian Kinsler. After hitting only 21 homers between the Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers last year, Dozier has launched one this spring in 13 at-bats.
“I think you’ll see the old Dozier now that he’s healthy,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said.
A career .246 hitter, an average depressed by last year’s .215 struggle, Dozier has primarily hit in the first or second spot of the lineup as a major leaguer. But with shortstop Trea Turner and right fielder Adam Eaton likely slated for the top two spots, Dozier may find himself in position to drive in runs, hitting behind Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto and Ryan Zimmerman.
Dozier was traded from the Twins to the Dodgers last July, but didn’t make much of an impact in the LA lineup. He had two singles in 16 at-bats in the postseason, going hitless in five at-bats in the World Series.
Dozier signed with the Nationals as a free agent.
“If you know Dozier he’s got that little chip on his shoulder,” Martinez said.
The 2017 American League Gold Glove winner at second base, Dozier’s defense could make more of an impact than his plate presence.
Washington committed the second-fewest errors last season, but the plodding, often injured Nationals also weren’t able to make many plays other teams found routine.
Slowed by offseason micro-fracture knee injury surgery that kept him from playing until June, starting second baseman Daniel Murphy started only one 4-6-3 double play as a National last season.
“That’s a surprising stat,” Dozier said.
With Dozier’s knee healthy, Martinez has Turner and Dozier working on the same schedule, sharing game days and rest days.
“I really want them to work together and get to know each other,” Martinez said. “It’s a big deal — feeds and all that stuff, and the timing of it, and how he works around the base.”
Monday’s Nationals lineup didn’t feature the Dozier-Turner combo, but it wasn’t an off-day for the duo.
The pair spent a half hour on the back fields at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches turning double plays.
“At the end we know that when you’re looking at a very strong division it could come down to a game or a half a game, and those little things will add up to the big things,” Dozier said.