Saturday, March 15, 2014

Spring training trip, Day 2: The shortstops

Jason Bartlett hasn't
played in the majors
since April 2012.
It was a couple hours before game time on Thursday, and the Twins infielders were leaving the little "Tom Kelly Field," passing between the barricades on their way back inside.

A voice called out: "Welcome back, Jason!"

Jason Bartlett -- the Twins regular shortstop in 2006-7 who was then dealt away in the ill-fated Delmon Young trade -- stopped, eyed the fans lining the railings, and walked over to a boy, to whom he handed his bat.

Since leaving the Twins, Bartlett has been an All-Star, played in a World Series, and been out of the game completely. Now he's trying, at age 34, to make that call of "welcome back" a reality.

The odds are against him. He started Friday's game at Hammond Stadium at shortstop. One hard smash handcuffed him, although he did block the ball and got the out. At the plate, he flew out twice to left field, making him 0-for-19 in "official" Grapefruit League play.

Bartlett spent Thursday afternoon playing around the outfield and leading off every inning in a minor league game. This effort was of sufficient interest to Ron Gardenhire that he skipped the early innings of the major league game to see Bartlett.

Gardenhire cast Bartlett's performance in a positive light -- he hit three balls hard --  and the consensus of the press seems to be that the manager really wants to have Bartlett on his roster as a utility guy.

Gardy is a powerful ally to have in a roster fight, but even he doesn't see Bartlett as a legit shortstop contender. And at some point, Bartlett has to hit.

Elsewhere in shortstop land:

Pedro Florimon, the incumbent recovering from an appendectomy, played a few innings Friday in a minor league game. Seth Stohs was watching:

OK, not the best of outings for Florimon.

In Tampa, prospect Danny Santana hit a double in the major league team's split squad win over the Yankees. He also misplayed a throw ...

And, again, that's the kind of thing that grates on a manager. Makeable plays that aren't made keep shortstops in the minors.

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