NEW YORK -- At spring training last year, Twins infielder Nick Punto made an adjustment in his batting stance, lowering his hands as he waited for the pitch.

Now, with Punto struggling to stop hitting so many fly balls, the Twins have him working on an opposite approach -- raising his hands before he swings.

"It's definitely a change," Punto said. "It might take some time."

Punto wasn't complaining. He said teams have been purposely pitching him up in the strike zone, encouraging more fly balls.

He is in a 2-for-22 skid, including going 0-for-4 Wednesday, that has dropped his average to .221.

Punto has moved back to a utility role after spending nearly a year as the team's everyday third baseman.

When Jeff Cirillo got another start at third base Wednesday, Punto started at shortstop. With an open date today, manager Ron Gardenhire said he wanted to give shortstop Jason Bartlett two days to rest "his arm, his neck and everything else."

Second baseman Luis Castillo will need days off to rest his achy body, too. And Cirillo has had recent problems with both knees. So Punto will get his playing time -- just not at the same position every game.

"It doesn't matter where I play," Punto said. "I just want to be out there every day and helping the lineup."

Blyleven's new look

Johan Santana had the clippers ready, and as soon as Bert Blyleven arrived at Shea Stadium, he was sitting in a chair in the middle of the Twins clubhouse, making good on a promise.

Blyleven said Santana could shave his head if he pitched a shutout Tuesday night, and Santana delivered, holding the Mets to four hits in a 9-0 victory.

"You hadn't pitched a shutout in two years, so I thought it was a pretty safe bet," Blyleven said.

"That's why this isn't Las Vegas," Santana said, removing another strip of hair.

With most of the team huddled around him, Santana made quick work of the haircut while taunting Blyleven, with comments such as, "Circle me Bert!"

Santana didn't quite shave Blyleven bald, but it was pretty close. Ramon Ortiz, the team barber, thought Santana did a fine job.

Garza update

With Matt Garza scheduled to make his 15th start of the season for Class AAA Rochester tonight, Twins minor league director Jim Rantz said the righthander is making progress.

Garza is 3-6 with a 3.71 ERA. He's averaging more than one strikeout per inning, but he also is averaging 1.35 walks and hits per inning pitched.

"He's going to be back [in the big leagues]; it's just a matter of when," Rantz said. "Hopefully the next time he goes back, he's there to stay."

Rantz said Garza's fastball has been clocked from 89-96 miles per hour. Last month, Garza publicly questioned the team's request that he mix in more off-speed pitches.

"I think that's behind him," Rantz said. "Now he's using all four of his pitches, including his changeup."


• Gardenhire said he and General Manager Terry Ryan spoke about returning to 12 pitchers, instead of the current 11, in time for the next road trip, which includes a doubleheader at Chicago. Gardenhire said lefthander Glen Perkins, who is rehabbing his left shoulder in Fort Myers, Fla., will not be ready in time to take that 12th spot.

• The Twins demoted third baseman Matt Moses from Class AAA Rochester to Class AA New Britain. Their 2003 first-round draft pick was batting .224 with 42 strikeouts and four walks.

Joe Christensen •