CHICAGO -- The Twins tried out several different lineups in Spring Training, trying to find hitters to bat in front of Joe Mauer, and went with Brian Dozier as leadoff hitter with Kurt Suzuki batting second on Monday against the White Sox.
The decision to bat Dozier leadoff against left-hander Chris Sale wasn't a surprise, as he fared well in that role last season, hitting .253/.310/.462 with 12 homers and seven stolen bases in 74 games atop the order. But Suzuki batting second was more of an interesting decision, as he has a career .309 on-base percentage and just a .282 on-base percentage over the last two seasons.
But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he likes Suzuki's ability to handle the bat, despite the fact he's not a prototypical No. 2 hitter.
"We settled on Suzuki batting second because he's a great contact guy," Gardenhire said. "And with [Sale] pitching, you have to put the ball in play."
Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said he talked to Gardenhire about the lineup, and the manager explained he could use Suzuki in hit-and-run situations to help manufacture runs. Antony also said that the lineup will be fluid, and that Suzuki isn't locked into batting second this year.
"He takes good at-bats," Antony said. "He can hit and run. Dozier is not a prototypical leadoff guy in that he's not a 50-stolen base guy. So there are some things we might do hit-and-run-wise. So we're going to try to manufacture runs. So at least on Opening Day, Gardy wants to see what [Suzuki] can do in the two-hole."
Dozier went 0-for-4 in the 5-3 loss, but Suzuki went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and three RBIs.
"It definitely feels good, especially when you're back there and you give up a couple runs, so it's nice to get a couple back," Suzuki said. "It felt good to start off the season like that."
Tonkin enjoys first Opening Day, subs for Duensing
CHICAGO -- Right-hander Michael Tonkin was informed on March 24 that, despite an impressive showing in Spring Training, he'd start the season at Triple-A Rochester, so he figured he'd have to wait another year for his first Opening Day experience.
But Tonkin ended up making the club after all, as he was officially recalled from Triple-A before Monday's game against the White Sox with left-hander Brian Duensing placed on the three-day paternity list.
"It's pretty cool -- I'm excited," Tonkin said. "[Spring Training] went good. My arm feels good. So yeah, I'm happy about it."
Tonkin, 24, is regarded as one of the club's top relief prospects, and didn't allow a run in 8 1/3 innings this spring. He also posted a 0.79 ERA in 11 1/3 innings as a rookie last season, as well as a 3.47 ERA with 66 strikeouts in 57 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he feels comfortable using Tonkin in any situation until Duensing returns on Thursday.
"I'm not worried about him," Gardenhire said. "He's a guy we talked about keeping during Spring Training, but the numbers just didn't work out. He'll be there until we get Deuce back. But I don't worry about the kid. He can wing it."
Duensing, meanwhile, attended the birth of his second child with his wife, Lisa, on Monday in Omaha, Neb. Duensing's wife gave birth at 9:19 a.m. to a healthy baby boy named Boston Matthew, who weighed in at 6 pounds, 6 ounces.
Colabello follows heart, finds place in big leagues
CHICAGO -- Chris Colabello could've been a richer man, playing in South Korea this season, but said he couldn't be any happier being a part of Opening Day for the Twins on Monday.
Colabello, who turned down an offer worth roughly $1 million to play in the Korean Baseball Organization in late December, instead made the Twins as a backup first baseman and designated hitter. He was also in the lineup on Monday, batting fifth and starting at DH against White Sox left-hander Chris Sale.
"It's pretty awesome -- there's really no other way to say it," Colabello said before going 2-for-4 with a double in the 5-3 loss. "Obviously, I'm excited and glad they have faith in me to be here and put me in there. It's one of those things, where I just to try to be myself every day. When I do that, things work out pretty good."
Colabello added that the decision to remain with the Twins was ultimately an easy one, even though he'd be making roughly double the money in Korea than he would in the big leagues with the Twins.
"My heart was here," Colabello said. "I believed I could be here. I believed I had something to offer here. If not, I definitely would've gone over there. This was what I wanted to do. I've always wanted to be in the big leagues since my earliest memories. I don't think my first goals were to eat, drink or breathe. It was to make the big leagues."
Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said it was up to Colabello whether to accept the offer to play in Korea, but ultimately Colabello chose to chase his dream of being a big leaguer. It's been a long road for Colabello, who played seven seasons in the independent Can-Am League before joining the Twins organization in 2012.
Colabello has excelled in the Minors, and was named the International League MVP last season at Triple-A Rochester, but struggled as a rookie in the Majors last season, hitting .194 with seven homers and 17 RBIs in 55 games.
"For me, it's a great story for a guy who has persevered as long as he has and had some great years in the independent leagues," Antony said. "He didn't get a chance with a Major League organization but when he did, he took advantage of it. Any other year, he would've been our Minor League Player of the Year. So he's an important guy with some right-handed power. We need offense."
Colabello, 30, made the club after hitting .349/.462/.512 with a homer in 23 games in Spring Training, and will be mixed into the lineup at DH along with Jason Kubel. But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said it won't be a platoon with Colabello only facing left-handers.
"Kubel actually stays in against lefties pretty good, but [Sale] isn't your normal lefty, he's pretty filthy," Gardenhire said. "So I'm not worried about Kubel against lefties. And there will be some matchups where Colabello will face righties. So we'll make out lineups we think are good for that day instead of left-right."