Mauer, Dozier will ease into spring games

Mauer, Dozier will ease into spring games

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- First baseman Joe Mauer and second baseman Brian Dozier were both held out of the starting lineup for the Twins' Grapefruit League opener against the Rays on Friday. Mauer isn't expected to play until Wednesday against the Pirates, while Dozier is slated to make his debut on Sunday against the Nationals.

Neither is injured, but Twins manager Paul Molitor said he's easing them into games early this spring because Spring Training is longer this year with the World Baseball Classic.

"Trying to do the right thing," Molitor said. "Starting early, that was part of my approach to Joe, in that I'm not in a hurry to get him out there given the fact April 1 will be [36] days from now or whatever it is."

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Molitor added that Mauer, a 13-year veteran, knows what he needs to do to get ready for the season and that he'll play more toward the end of Spring Training to get ready for Opening Day, April 3 against the Royals at Target Field.

"Joe's a lot about ramping up, as opposed to needing 60 or 70 at-bats, at least that's my impression," Molitor said. "I think he kind of thinks that's true, too. There's not a lot of guys here that I somewhat at least temporarily have an idea of what games they're going to play throughout the spring."

Molitor said the only three players he met with about their playing time this spring were Mauer, Dozier and catcher Jason Castro. Castro was behind the plate on Friday night, but the Twins also want to get a look at John Ryan Murphy, Chris Gimenez and Mitch Garver, who are competing to be the backup catcher.

Castro, who signed a three-year, $24.5 million deal with the Twins in the offseason, told Molitor he likes to get 40 to 50 at-bats during Spring Training, but Molitor said the tricky part is that Castro is also trying to learn the pitchers.

"Obviously, a difference this year is that familiarity," Molitor said. "We're trying to get him exposed to as many pitchers as we can and focus more on starters than relievers along the way. It's going to be part of how and when to play him."

Worth noting

• Left-handed reliever Mason Melotakis, who has been sidelined by an oblique strain, has shown improvement, but still isn't ready to resuming throwing, according to general manager Thad Levine. He's day to day.

• Closer Glen Perkins continues to report feeling good and is progressing, Levine said. Perkins, coming off labrum surgery, has thrown three bullpen sessions of 15 pitches each. He'll continue to throw every fourth day.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.