Posted at 8:28 PM on August 11, 2006
by David Zingler
On June 13, the Twins were floundering near the bottom of the AL Central with a 29-34 record. The following day they re-called Jason Bartlett from Rochester and proceeded to go 38-13 in the ensuing two months. That begs the question, why couldn’t the Twins win without Bartlett on the roster?
The young shortstop addressed that seemingly valid, yet completely illogical question, with care, “I think it was just a matter of everything coming together,” Bartlett explained with a grin. “The pitching started coming together and with me and Nicky (Punto) on the left side of the infield -- we’re diving for everything -- that kind of sparked everybody, gave them some energy.”
OK, that’s the politically correct (and sane) answer, but it’s just not exciting enough. Surely, he cast a some kind of magical spell on the team, “I wish I could say I did, but no I didn’t,” the 26-year-old laughed.
Oddly enough, the 2006 season began with disappointment for Bartlett. Despite a solid showing in spring training, he was left off the Opening Day roster and sent to Rochester to develop better “leadership skills”.
“I took it exactly like Gardy told me,” Bartlett said of the demotion. “There was something I should go down and work on, I didn’t take it in any way negative -- as far as getting down on myself. I went down and worked hard and got back here as soon as I could.”
I had to be more vocal and I went down to Triple A and decided to do it,” he continued “As the weeks went on, it gradually became part of my game and I think it helped me out.”
Barking orders at major league infielders can be a little more touchy however, especially when you lack big league experience. “It’s hard to tell Luis Castillo what to do,” Bartlett admitted. “He’s a Gold Glover, he’s got a World Series ring, but that’s something I have to do, if he doesn’t like it -- it’s coming from the head guy -- it’s my job.”
2005 was struggle for Bartlett. In between stints in Rochester, he hit .241 with .316 OBP in 224 at-bats, “Last year out of spring training, I was having fun,” he pointed out. “I hit a little slump and it seemed like I couldn’t get out of it. The hole kept getting bigger and bigger and as that happened I started putting pressure on myself. That’s the wrong thing to do when that happens, it gets worse.”
The California native entered this season with a fresh, yet simple approach, “I told myself in spring training that when I have a chance to come up here, I am just going to have fun, play baseball, (and) not put pressure on myself,” Bartlett commented. “That seems to be working so far.”
Today Bartlett, who was acquired in 2002 for current St. Paul Saint Brian Buchanan, is hitting .355/.421/.465 and carving his place among the most exciting young group of Twins to emerge since the 1980s.
“(Playing with guys you are familiar with) makes it easier, you come up here and are not as intimidated,” the former Padre farmhand confessed. “When you first come up as a youngster, you see all these big name guys you see on TV and video games. You see them in the clubhouse and it’s like ‘What am I doing here?’ I played with Joe (Mauer) and (Justin) Morneau (in the minors); coming up with those guys makes it a lot easier.”
With only Torii Hunter and Brad Radke remaining from the group that won three straight division titles, Barlett senses a changing of the guard. “It’s a good feeling,” he said flashing a smile. “It’s our team and we’re trying to take it to the next level like it was when we got here.”
I think Jason Bartlett is the BEST!!!!!
Jason is a hottie. He rocks.