Dozier back in lineup after bone bruise

Dozier back in lineup after bone bruise

Dozier back in lineup after bone bruise

MINNEAPOLIS -- Second baseman Brian Dozier returned to the top of the Twins' lineup on Thursday in the series finale with the Royals.

After missing two games with a bone bruise in his left knee, which led to back spasms in Seattle, Dozier has been fitted with a knee brace and orthotics to help ease the tension in the joint.

"I didn't even ask today," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I didn't even want to hear the trainers' answers, I just put him back in. I think he's chomping at the bit. The trainers said if he went through his work out [on Wednesday], everything would be good. Well, he looked good yesterday so we'll put him back out there."

Dozier was available, if needed, on Wednesday night, but didn't play. In Thursday's 7-2 loss to the Royals, he doubled in the third inning to extend his hitting streak to eight games, a career high.

While the second baseman has been lauded for this play up the middle all season, he's turned his offense around the last two months. In June and July, Dozier hit .247 with a .340 on base percentage. Over that time he hit 15 doubles and seven home runs with 24 RBIs. Through April and May, he had a .214 average with a .259 OBP and just three doubles and two home runs with 13 RBIs.

Gardenhire said the change occurred after he and hitting coach Tom Brunansky told Dozier to do what got him in the Major Leagues -- just swing. Earlier in the season they were working on Dozier's approach, trying to get him to hit more line drives and use the whole field. After he slumped early, they told him to get out of his head and just swing.

"That's what he's been doing," Gardenhire said. "Since then he's been a better player.

"He's played fantastic defense the whole time, which I'm happy with because he didn't let any part of his offense affect that part. He's able to separate that."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. Kelly Erickson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.