Molitor adjusting to stretch in NL ballparks

Twins playing five straight Interleague road games

Molitor adjusting to stretch in NL ballparks

WASHINGTON -- Paul Molitor has watched the evolution of Interleague Play up close. Molitor was at the end of his Hall of Fame playing career when Interleague was introduced in 1997, and he was an instructor in the Twins' organization when it was restructured in 2013 to occur throughout the season.

Molitor is now the Twins' manager, and his team is in the midst of a seven-game Interleague stretch, including five straight games in National League ballparks. Molitor, who spent his entire 21-year playing career in the American League, said Interleague Play poses several challenges for AL teams. He noted AL pitchers are bound to struggle even more at the plate when they haven't taken batting practice consistently. For another, playing without a designated hitter could hurt a team used to having one.

"Maybe I'm biased, but I think it's easier to play with [a DH] than without one, if that's what you're accustomed to," Molitor said.

For the Twins in particular, this stretch of Interleague Play has created a playing-time crunch at first base between Joe Mauer and Byung Ho Park. Minnesota has rotated the two players at first base and DH so far this season, but playing on the road against NL teams has forced Molitor to choose between the two.

Mauer has gotten the nod in each game so far, but Molitor said Park, a right-handed hitter, will start one game against the Nationals. Mauer started Friday because of his past success against left-hander Gio Gonzalez (5-for-17, two home runs), leaving Park most likely to play Sunday against right-hander Stephen Strasburg, who has been about as tough against lefties as righties in his career.

One Twins player who is enjoying this early-season stretch of Interleague Pay is second baseman Brian Dozier, who recorded hits in each of the Twins' four games against Milwaukee.

Dozier said although he prefers playing division rivals early in the season, he enjoys matching up with teams from the opposing league.

"I love Interleague Play," Dozier said. "I think we should probably play more of them. I'm a fan of everybody playing everybody, getting the equal scheduling and all that kind of stuff."

Alex Putterman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.