MINNEAPOLIS -- The past 12 months have been a whirlwind for Brian Dozier.
At this time last year, Dozier was a 24-year-old shortstop repeating Class A Advanced Fort Myers despite a solid 2010 campaign split between Class A Beloit and Fort Myers.
But Dozier made a quick ascent through the system, and he is now entrenched as the Twins' starting shortstop. He's made a positive impact so far, hitting .279 with two homers, three doubles and eight RBIs in 14 games while providing solid defense up the middle.
And while Dozier isn't surprised by his success, he admits it's crazy to look back at all that's transpired in just one year.
"Last year, I was kind of disappointed going back to high [Class] A, but to think that 12 months ago from today I went from high [Class] A to the big leagues is kind of weird to think about," Dozier said. "But at the same time, you have to produce, and that's the biggest thing I learned last year. No matter how you much you think you should move up, you have to throw it all out the window and produce. And so last year was a big turnaround for me."
Dozier certainly produced in the Minors last season, hitting a combined .320 with a .399 on-base percentage and .491 slugging percentage in 127 games split between Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain.
Dozier was named the organization's Minor League Player of the Year and was a candidate to be a September callup, but he was passed over by Chris Parmelee and Joe Benson.
So Dozier made it his mission to break camp with the Twins this spring, and despite hitting .277 with three homers during Spring Training, he was reassigned to Minor League camp in the last round of cuts.
|"He's obviously got the tools to play the game. He's a great defender, and he's got some pop in his bat."|
-- Jamey Carroll,|
on Brian Dozier
Dozier, however, continued to impress at Triple-A Rochester by hitting .276 in 28 games, and he finally made his big league debut on May 7.
Dozier said starting the year in Triple-A helped fuel his fire, and that he knew he was ready for the Majors even before the season.
"Anytime you get sent down from anything to not be able to say you're the best at what you do, you always have a chip on your shoulder," Dozier said. "Everyone carries that with them, no matter what it is, because their goal is to be a starter in the big leagues. That's what we play the game for."
Dozier, though, is used to being the underdog.
He grew up in the small town of Fulton, Miss., which has a population of roughly 4,000. The city had never produced a big leaguer, and despite a solid career at Itawamba High School, Dozier was snubbed by bigger colleges such as Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
He settled in at Southern Miss instead and ended up starring there for four years. But even Dozier's college career was marred by a setback, as he broke his collarbone 35 games into his senior season.
But the Twins still liked what they saw from Dozier based on the advice from scout Earl Winn, and the club decided to take a chance on the infielder, selecting him in the eighth round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.
The move has paid off. The Twins believe they've found their shortstop of the future after the position had been a revolving door of sorts over the past few years.
"He's a good player," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's hit at every level he's been at. We've watched this young hitter, and he knows what he's doing. He knows what pitches to look for. The league is going to get to know him, and he'll have to adjust a little bit. But right now, the league is trying to figure him out, so it's a good thing and he's taking advantage of it."
So while Dozier has fared well at the plate with Minnesota, defense has been his strong suit throughout his professional career. The Twins like his instincts in the field, and he's made only one error so far at shortstop.
"Defense has been a big part of my game my whole career," Dozier said. "Coming through the farm system, I know the Twins have always harped on defense. And that's fit me well. I love playing defense, probably even more than offense, so that's a big part of the game for me."
Dozier has also leaned on veteran Jamey Carroll for advice about the position, and Carroll had nothing but positives to say about Dozier despite the fact he took his job as the starting shortstop.
"He's obviously got the tools to play the game," Carroll said. "He's a great defender, and he's got some pop in his bat."
With Dozier at shortstop, the Twins have been playing better baseball, going 7-7 in his 14 games. It's still just a .500 record, but it's a much better mark than the club's 7-20 record before he was called up.
Dozier's trying not to get too wrapped up in the club's recent improvement -- Minneosta has won four of its past five -- as it can change quickly if they don't keep working to get better.
"You want to keep that momentum going and you want to feel comfortable, but you have to keep a steady head," Dozier said. "So you have to keep working hard, because if you slack off even a little bit, it'll come back to bite you."