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Dozier shows signs of heating up with huge HR

@MannyOnMLB
April 23, 2019

DENVER -- Kurt Suzuki’s locker is four down from Brian Dozier’s in the visitor's clubhouse at Coors Field. “You’re starting to hit homers,” Suzuki said to Dozier after the Nationals’ 7-5 loss to the Rockies in their series opener at Coors Field on Monday night. “You’re going to start hitting

DENVER -- Kurt Suzuki’s locker is four down from Brian Dozier’s in the visitor's clubhouse at Coors Field.

“You’re starting to hit homers,” Suzuki said to Dozier after the Nationals’ 7-5 loss to the Rockies in their series opener at Coors Field on Monday night.

“You’re going to start hitting homer after homer after homer.”

That’s certainly the hope for the Nationals, who signed Dozier to a one-year, $9 million contract over the offseason to fill a vacancy at second base, as well as make up for some of the offensive firepower lost with the departure of Bryce Harper, and before him, Daniel Murphy.

Dozier got off to a very slow start this season, and entering Washington’s series finale against the Marlins in Miami on Sunday, he was hitting just .169/.222/.288 with two home runs. Two days later, he has doubled that home run output, and raised his OPS by 259 points.

In the fourth inning on Monday night, Dozier crushed a 435-foot home run that nearly landed on the concourse beyond the left-field bleachers at Coors Field. The ball left Dozier’s bat with an exit velocity of 106 mph, according to Statcast, landing just in front of the Helton Burger Shack beneath the scoreboard.

Is this the Dozier jumpstart that Washington has been waiting for?

“I feel like I’ve been getting that question a lot the past three or four games,” Dozier said. “ … There were a lot of different things early on to fix, some bad habits and stuff, and [hitting coach Kevin Long and I] have done that. I think the bigger thing now is the approach, getting back to being comfortable and really attacking pitches.

“Before the last four or five games, I let a lot of pitches go by. I know I’ve never done that in my career, letting strikes go by. You’ve gotta swing. You can’t hit it unless you swing, right?”

Dozier is a notorious slow starter. He came into Monday’s contest slashing .221/.304/.373 for his career in April. But an even slower start than usual after he turned in his worst season at the plate since 2012 could be cause for concern if things don’t pick up.

Dozier and the Nationals are looking for him to return to his slugging ways with the Twins from 2015-17, during which he posted an .814 OPS with 127 home runs. His subpar 2018 may have, at least in part, been due to Dozier playing through a knee injury for most of the season.

Another mitigating factor may be the inconsistency of playing time he had after he was traded to the Dodgers in July.

“Oftentimes when you struggle and you start doing little things and tweaking stuff, you don’t get very comfortable,” Dozier said. “You’re worried about this, get your foot down and back and all that kind of stuff, rather than just saying, ‘You know what? All that’s fixed, so just get up there and hit and attack and be aggressive.’”

Washington would certainly like to see more of what Dozier has shown over the past two games, for a variety of reasons.

“What I like about Dozier is his all-around game,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “He’s always hit home runs. When he starts heating up, his defense is really good, he’ll start running the bases, start stealing bases for us and driving in runs.”

As for Suzuki’s prediction, a Dozier home run binge is certainly not a far-fetched notion. During the second half of the 2016 season, for example, Dozier belted 28 homers in 72 games.

It remains to be seen what happens next for Dozier, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it went something like, “homer after homer after homer.”

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.