Twins' Dozier on Polanco's suspension: 'No one wants to cast judgment by any means'
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier always makes an effort to bond with his keystone partner at shortstop. Since the second half of 2016, that has been young Jorge Polanco.
So it was with great sadness that Dozier was forced to react Monday morning to news of Polanco's 80-game steroid suspension, handed down on Sunday by Major League Baseball.
"No one wants to cast judgment by any means," Dozier said. "No one wants to talk about the wrongs or the rights or anything like that until you actually talk to Polanco and sit down with him and talk things out that actually happened. Then we'll go from there."
Dozier, the Twins' players representative, said he was not briefed on Polanco's positive test or his decision to withdraw his request to appeal. Dozier said he had not talked yet with Polanco but would "probably reach out to him" Monday.
"I'll kind of let this stuff settle in and comprehend everything and get some information before I reach out," Dozier said. "It's disappointing to see a lot of guys still trying to use performance-enhancing drugs. But at the same time, when it comes to a guy on my team, that's my brother. He needs love right now, and that's the only thing I'm really worried about."
This is the Twins' first performance-enhancing drug suspension on their 40-man roster since pitcher Ervin Santana was forced to sit out the first 80 games of 2015 after testing positive for the same banned substance, Stanozolol. Could that experience in dealing with a steroid suspension help the Twins weather this storm as well?
"I don't know about experience with dealing with this, but I do know this: I do know that we as players want performance-enhancing drugs out of the equation for everybody," Dozier said. "We don't want it in our game — no part of it. We want a clean game.
"With that being said, people make mistakes. That's the world we live in. I know more than ever Polanco needs a little love right now. That's my brother. That comes first. That's our brother. We've got his back. He needs a little love right now. He'll get it from us."
Like others in the Twins' clubhouse, Dozier said Polanco never confided in him or showed outward signs of struggling with such a professional setback.
"Polanco, what you see is what you get," Dozier said. "The guy comes to the field every day and acts the same way. None of us in here had any idea about it."
Of all positions on the field, the Twins might be best equipped to handle the loss of their starting shortstop for the first half of the season.
Eduardo Escobar, coming off a 21-homer breakthrough, has been their Opening Day shortstop just once (2016) since coming over via trade from the Chicago White Sox in 2012. Yet he still has 259 starts at the position for them since the start of 2013, including a career-high 71 in 2015.
Last season, when the position largely belonged to Polanco, Escobar made just 12 starts at shortstop and 77 at third base. Set to earn $4.85 million this season, the 29-year-old remains a highly valued utility man for Twins manager Paul Molitor.
"I'm not sure what's going to happen now," Escobar said through a team-provided translator. "Like I've always said since Day 1, when Mollie calls me I'm going to be ready to support my teammates and get ready to play every day."
The Twins also have slick-fielding Ehire Adrianza, whose primary position is shortstop, along with non-roster candidate Erick Aybar, a former Gold Glove shortstop with the Los Angeles Angels. Adrianza made 23 of his 42 starts at shortstop last season, his first with the Twins.
Escobar said he had yet to speak with Polanco.
"I feel sad, a little disappointed," he said. "It took me by surprise. He's a great guy, a great teammate. I'm just going to support him."
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