Notes: Bartlett nails down shortstop
Ponson having visa problems; Baker learns the ropes
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Shortstop Jason Bartlett didn't want to mess with the streak, so he didn't mind that manager Ron Gardenhire penciled his name into the starting lineup the entire second half and throughout the playoffs last season.
"I was out there every day trying to contribute," Bartlett said after practice Monday. "Things went well. ... We couldn't afford to get days off."
He was quick to say that other Twins went out every day, but having a shortstop who could do so was what Gardenhire was looking for.
"He went out there and played," Gardenhire said of Bartlett. "That's all I can ask of him -- just go out and play and enjoy the game."
Gardenhire did ask for a bit more than that, though. He also asked Bartlett to lead, a shortcoming that got him sent to Triple-A Rochester in the first place.
But how do you teach a player to lead?
Bartlett didn't offer an answer. He did say that he knew to stick in the Majors, that he had to take charge of the infield, even if it meant having to tell a veteran like Luis Castillo where to position himself.
When Bartlett rejoined the Twins, he led. He also hit .309 with 32 RBIs in 99 games, a bonus for a shortstop with his range and his strong arm. That success taught Bartlett plenty, which he's taken with him into Spring Training.
"I know I can be out there every day," he said. "That could be me. I know I can do it; I have the confidence to do it. I'm just gonna go out there and play my game."
OK, sort of: Gardenhire didn't hesitate when saying that he'd prefer to see Castillo show a bit more on some of his runs to first base.
"That's just not his gig, as they say," Gardenhire said. "He's got a little different mentality about the game. Does it drive you crazy as a manager?
"Everything drives you crazy as a manager. But I can live with it, because I know he has a lot of heart."
And the question is: First baseman Justin Morneau hit 34 homers last season, which gives hope that someone on the Twins -- Morneau -- might reach 40 this season. Who was the last Twins player to hit at least 40 homers in a season? [See answer below]
Did you know: Harmon Killebrew's name heads the list in a lot of hitting categories for the Twins, but his name appears at the top of a few categories in which he'd prefer to be second, third or 13th. The Hall of Fame first baseman leads the franchise in grounding into double plays. During his career, Killebrew grounded into 238 double plays. Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett is second on the list with 188.
Visa problems: Somewhere, somehow, right-hander Sidney Ponson has to get his visa situation taken care of. The veteran Ponson, whom Gardenhire had talked about being an innings-eater for the Twins this season, has created a bit of concern at camp. The Twins didn't know the reason for the delay in getting Ponson's paperwork sorted out, but Gardenhire was hopeful that the problem wouldn't linger much longer.
"We need to get this done," Gardenhire said. "We want him pitching, and we're trying to get this straightened out. For him to make this ballclub, he needs to pitch."
Camp confidential: Pitcher Dennys Reyes left camp to return to Mexico to be with his wife. She's expected to give birth to a child any day. ... Outfielder Lew Ford will have an MRI on his right knee. Gardenhire didn't know how serious, if serious at all, the injury was, and Ford wasn't available after practice for comments. ... Veteran infielder Jeff Cirillo, who left practice Sunday with a neck injury, resumed light workouts Monday. ... Right-hander Matt Garza will have a CAT scan to determine the reason for lingering headaches. Garza had sprained a neck muscle during workouts last weekend.
Learning game: Right-hander Scott Baker knows what he needs to do to retain his spot in the Twins' starting rotation. He learned that lesson last season after opening the season in Triple-A Rochester.
"I think at times you try to hit your spots and you become a little timid, and there's absolutely no place for that in this game," said Baker, who ended up starting 16 games for the Twins last season. "If anybody's the aggressor, it needs to be the pitcher."
But once the 26-year-old Baker got his chance in the bigs, he did his best to stay there. He said he figured out that he needed to straighten out his mechanics, throw each pitch with a purpose and, as he put it, throw each pitch "with conviction."
It was doing just that which got him to the Majors. Still, he's not coming into Spring Training expecting to just coast to a starting spot. He knows well that he'll have to trust his stuff if he's going to break camp with the Twins.
"There are several good guys in camp that are probably in that same position," he said Monday. "They're gonna take the best 11 or 12 guys; that's just the way it is."
The answer is: Killebrew was the last Twins player to reach that total. In 1970, Killebrew hit 41 homers and drove in 113 runs.
Quotable: "He has that mentality about him. He has the stuff; he has the makeup. I think it's not that he's gonna get better and better, 'cause he's pretty good right now. But I think what you're probably gonna see, if he stays healthy, is a pitcher that can maintain. He just has the knack." -- Gardenhire, responding to a question about how much better Cy Young winner Johan Santana can get
Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.