John Shipley, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn. –
TAMPA, Fla. – Ryan Doumit had expressed reservations about playing first base for the Twins this season, and it didn’t take long for him to feel uncomfortable there.
Doumit played his first game at first on Friday, March 23, in a 6-4 loss to the New York Yankees, and on his first play in the field, leadoff hitter Derek Jeter awkwardly poked a grounder down the right-field line, just inside the first-base bag.
“He was picking on me,” Doumit said.
The grounder was in no danger of being stopped by Doumit, a catcher and outfielder who has started five games at first since 2007. He dove at it but, by his own reckoning, “After it was by me.” Jeter wound up with a single.
Still, it was a fairly successful start for the Twins, who are committed to playing Doumit at first for much of the final two weeks of spring training. By the time Doumit left the game, the Twins were ahead 4-0, and he made a nice play on a high pop up near the visiting dugout.
Told he looked OK at first, Doumit said, “I must have fooled you.”
Doumit has been taking grounders on days he hasn’t caught, and he worked with Tom Kelly, Ron Gardenhire and other coaches on his fielding. It’s all part of the plan to keep his bat in the lineup – he hit .303 in an injury-shortened 2011 season – and give the Twins the option to at least occasionally use Justin Morneau as the designated hitter.
Doumit was candid about his reservations, but Gardenhire was adamant.
“There was a magazine article
that said, ‘No more Mr. Nice Guy’ or something, right?” Gardenhire said. “See, there you have it. I’m not being nice anymore. ‘You’re playing.’ He’s going to take ground balls. He’s been doing a lot of work over there. The more positions you can play, the more you’ll get to play.”
Said Doumit: “First base is just the type of position I just haven’t played that much (32 career starts) to have really felt that comfortable….That’s what spring training is all about. Hopefully I can turn the corner on my comfort level.”