Notes from camp: Bartlett still looking for first hit
- March 15, 2014 - 7:02 PM
Unlucky Bartlett still 0-for-spring
PORT ST. LUCIE, FLA. – Jason Bartlett still hasn’t caught a fly ball. And he hasn’t hit one that wasn’t caught.
It’s been that kind of spring for the veteran utility man.
“I’ve been through it before,” Bartlett said, shrugging. “They fall eventually.”
Maybe. But for the 34-year-old Bartlett, trying to return to the majors after a year out of baseball, his bad luck couldn’t come at a worse time. He’s battling for a back-up-every-position role on the Twins, and Eduardo Escobar, perhaps his main competition for a spot, singled home two runs Saturday.
Bartlett? He rocketed a screaming line drive toward left field that Mets third baseman Josh Satin dived to catch, and pounded a one-hopper up the middle that pitcher Gonzalez Germen speared. Two hard-hit balls, but he took home an 0-for-4 that brings his spring total to an ugly 0-for-23.
“I told my wife, ‘I just want to start hitting the ball hard,’ and all of a sudden I am,” said Bartlett, who crushed two fly balls against the Orioles on Friday, both of them caught on the run. “I feel really good. I’m seeing the ball well, squaring it up. And they won’t fall.”
He consoles himself with the knowledge that “the coaches see what’s happening, they see everything,” he said. And manager Ron Gardenhire agreed, saying, “Rockets. That’s what we want to see.”
“We’re looking for experience and veteran leadership, and he does all those things,” the manager said. “Now, does he have the ability to get back to where he was or close to it? That’s what we’re looking for.”
So is Bartlett.
“Two weeks left, who knows where I’ll be. So I just want to find a groove,” he said. “I’ll just keep swinging.”
He’s got the opposite problem in the outfield. Bartlett can play every infield position, and he’s begun playing the outfield, too, to prove his versatility. But in nearly 10 total innings he has yet to have a fly ball hit in his direction.
“I want to get that first fly ball out of the way,” Bartlett said. “I was talking to Mastro [Darin Mastroianni] about it — he says once you get that first fly ball, everything kind of slows down. I’m still waiting for it.”
Pedro Florimon worked out in Fort Myers on Saturday, and will play five innings of a minor league game on Sunday. If all goes well, assistant general manager Rob Antony said, the Twins shortstop could join the major leaguers in Monday night’s game against Baltimore.
With the Twins back home for two of their next three games, Antony hinted that another round of cuts may be coming soon. “I’ve got to talk to Gardy, but we’re going to have to probably trim it down again,” Antony said. “We got some more looks at guys this week, and now we’ve got to figure out where we go.” The Twins have 48 players in camp, including 27 pitchers.
Ricky Nolasco, appointed the Twins’ Opening Day starter last week, faces his old team, and a former Twins starter, when Kevin Slowey starts for the Marlins at Hammond Stadium (noon, FSN).
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