Notes: Bartlett not happy about defense
Shortstop has more errors (four) than hits (one) this season
MINNEAPOLIS -- Problems at the plate have seemed to affect every hitter in the Twins' lineup, but none more so than shortstop Jason Bartlett.Bartlett has hit just .050 (1-for-20) to start off the season. But while it's been a slow start offensively for Bartlett, the real frustration has come on defense. The shortstop has more errors (four) than hits (one) so far this season, and it's clear the troubles are starting to wear on him a bit. "I'm not hitting that well, but I'm not frustrated about my offense right now," Bartlett said. "I do feel good and it's a long season, so I could have a couple good games and be right back up there. The defense -- it is bothering me because I take so much pride in that. It's just ridiculous how bad it is right now." Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Tuesday that there has been an issue with the way the FieldTurf has been combed so far this season, leading to some bad hops in the infield. The adjustment back onto the turf after spending all spring on grass is often cited as an issue for some players, but even with Gardenhire's assertion, Bartlett didn't want to use any excuses for his poor play. "I thought about that the first couple days, but last year, when I got called up, I thought it was easy," Bartlett said of the woes possibly coming from adjusting to the turf after being on grass all spring. "But it's just not the turf. I'm throwing balls away, and balls are popping out of my glove. It has nothing to do with the field." Bartlett was given the day off Wednesday as Alexi Casilla got the start at shortstop. It was in part due to a sore groin Bartlett tweaked in Tuesday night's game against the Yankees, on a chopper hit up the middle by Yankees left fielder Melky Cabrera. It marked the end of Bartlett's streak of 106 consecutive starts at shortstop -- having played all 99 games last season after being called up on June 14. The day of rest was given for Bartlett to try and let the injury heal. The plan all along had been to give Casilla a start at shortstop sometime this week, and Gardenhire felt now was as good a time as any for it. Bartlett said he could have played through the injury, but he was going to use the day of rest to try and gather himself after all the early troubles. "He probably wants me to stop thinking about stuff right now," Bartlett said of Gardenhire's intentions for the day off. "So hopefully, I'll just take today, have some fun out there and come tomorrow and start playing some baseball like I know I can." It was just two years ago that Bartlett made the club out of Spring Training, only to be sent down May 19 after suffering through some early-season struggles. This time seems different, as Bartlett was able to prove in '06 that he could produce both offensively (hitting .309) and provide solid defense during the team's division title run over the second half of the season. But Bartlett isn't looking back on past accomplishments. "It helps having it, but that was last year," Bartlett said. "This is a whole new year, and I need to get my stuff together or else it's not going to be my job for too long. They can't just keep sending me out there if I'm not doing the job. I have to figure out what's going on, and go out there and fix it." Thin bullpen: The Twins were a little short on arms when it came to their relief corps Wednesday night. Right-hander Juan Rincon was not available for the game as he was at home with his wife, Roselen, after receiving the news that Rincon's mother-in-law had passed away. The two were unable to fly back to Venezuela for the funeral due to the fact that Roselen is pregnant.
"This is a very hard time for them," Gardenhire said. "It'll probably be a day or two before he returns."Right-hander Jesse Crain also was unavailable to pitch in Wednesday's game against the Yankees, as he has been dealing with a sore right shoulder. Crain said the shoulder has been a little tight since Monday, and the team felt it was time to give it a rest. Crain is expected to possibly miss two days as he rests, though a specific timetable was not set. "We're a little on the thin side coming into the ballgame," Gardenhire said. What all the absences meant for the Twins was that starter Sidney Ponson had to be on call for a possible emergency-duty role in the bullpen. Wednesday was Ponson's normal day to throw his side session, but the club held off in case Ponson was needed in a long-relief role. No matter if he pitches or not, Ponson will still start as scheduled on Saturday. And if the club doesn't need Ponson in the game, he will throw his side session in the bullpen late in the game. After Wednesday night's game, the club made a roster move, calling up left-hander Glen Perkins from Triple-A Rochester and sending down catcher Chris Heintz. The need for the extra arm out of the bullpen was made clear by all the injuries and the beaten up 'pen. Perkins was 0-0 with a 1.50 ERA in one start for the Red Wings, allowing just two hits with one run over six innings. "Things change pretty quick out of Spring Training with injuries, and [the] bullpen got beat up pretty quick," Gardenhire said. "So we had to make a move." Under the knife: Jeff Cirillo underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Wednesday morning, and the procedure was deemed a success. The surgery was performed by the Twins' orthopedist, Dr. John Steubs. Gardenhire said that some shredding was found on the meniscus during the surgery, and it was able to be all cleaned up without any problems. Cirillo is expected to miss three to six weeks due to the surgery. No real DH? The current state of injuries to the Twins lineup has also created a bit of a rotation for the designated-hitter spot in the lineup. Luis Rodriguez was slotted into the DH spot for the first time Wednesday, and Gardenhire said that he will have to go with a mix-and-match method until everyone is healthy again. The original plan coming out of spring had been to use Jason Kubel as the team's DH against right-handers and Cirillo as the DH against lefties. With Cirillo out for an extended period of time, Gardenhire said that he will mix in Rodriguez, Jason Tyner, Kubel and possibly a few others at the spot -- at least for now. "We had plans out of Spring Training and those have changed," Gardenhire said. "So we're kind of ad-libbing on the go right now." Down on the farm: Right-hander Kevin Slowey gave up only one unearned run over six innings in Triple-A Rochester's 4-3 win over Norfolk on Tuesday night. Slowey allowed just three hits, while striking out two and not issuing a walk in the contest. Denard Span was 1-for-4 with an RBI and two strikeouts in the win. ... Left-hander Jose Mijares struck out the only batter he faced to pick up his first save of the season in Double-A New Britain's 3-1 victory over Portland. Korey Feiner was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. ... Outfielder Whit Robinson went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored in Class A Beloit's 4-2 win at Kane County. Coming up: The Twins open a four-game series with the Devil Rays at the Metrodome on Thursday, with the first game scheduled for a 7:10 p.m. CT start. Right-hander Carlos Silva will get the start for Minnesota as he faces off against Tampa Bay left-hander Casey Fossum.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.