Bartlett back with Friars, hopes to succeed

Bartlett back with Friars, hopes to succeed

Bartlett back with Friars, hopes to succeed
PEORIA, Ariz. -- By the time the All-Star break rolled around in 2002, the Padres were buried in their division, 19 full games back of first place in the National League West, a division that would eventually see three teams win 90 or more games.

Not willing to concede anything, then general manager Kevin Towers, in his attempt to infuse a little pop into the offense, went out and got manager Bruce Bochy a bat for the lineup, trading with the Twins for outfielder Brian Buchanan.

"We were looking for a right-handed power bat," Towers said the other day.

The price, at the time, didn't seem too steep, as Towers sent Minor League shortstop Jason Bartlett, who had been in the farm system for just over one season, to the Twins to complete the deal.

2010 Spring Training - null
Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info

Helping soften the blow of dealing a player at a premium position like shortstop was the fact that one month earlier, the Padres picked what they considered to be their shortstop of the future, Khalil Greene, with the 13th overall pick in the Draft.

"We were very comfortable with Khalil and thought he was a guy who might be here for 10-plus years," Towers said. "We liked Jason, but we felt, at that time, he was more of a fringe-type prospect.

"Obviously, in hindsight, I wish we hadn't made that deal."

Buchanan struck out in his first at-bat after the trade, though he went on to hit .296 with six home runs in 48 games. That did little to help the Padres, though, as they finished in last place in division, 32 games back of the D-backs.

Bartlett, meanwhile, went on to play parts of four seasons with the Twins before landing with the Rays in 2008, where he helped the franchise win their first World Series title as their everyday shortstop.

"When you sign with a team, you think you're going to be there forever," Bartlett said. "I'm glad it happened at the beginning before I got settled in. They drafted Khalil and I figured my time here would be short.

"I just didn't think it would be that short."

In an odd twist, Bartlett is back with the Padres, after the team traded for him during the offseason to provide stability to a position that has been anything but steady ever since Greene hit 27 home runs in 2007.

Stop by Bartlett's locker and ask him about his memories of the Padres, which amounts to 143 Minor League games, and he shrugs.

"My dad still wears his Eugene Emeralds jacket," Bartlett said of his first Minor League stop with the Padres. "We kept the Padres equipment bags, too. My family still will use them. They're pretty big and good for traveling."

Is it any wonder then why Bartlett, 31, is anxious to create a few more lasting memories in his second tour of duty with the Padres?

Bartlett returns to San Diego with the reputation of a sure-handed defensive player, who has worked well this spring with new second baseman Orlando Hudson to help give the team a strong defensive duo up the middle, one of general manager Jed Hoyer's primary orders of business in the offseason.

"His value is he does everything well. He brings a ton to a team. He's a winning player," Hoyer said of Bartlett. "I don't think it was a fluke that the year they went to the World Series, he was the team MVP despite not having gaudy numbers."

More than defense, the Padres are getting a player who has a career .281 batting average. People who saw him play at the University of Oklahoma could not have predicted that kind of offensive production, which included 14 home runs in 2009.

"I didn't think he'd hit the way he's hit. That says a lot about how hard he's worked," said Padres scout Lane Decker, who signed Bartlett in 2001. "He played third base and was plus-run, plus-arm and plus-field."

What else can Bartlett offer the Padres?

Consider this: During the offseason, manager Bud Black was at PETCO Park and it just so happened that Twins catcher Joe Mauer was at the stadium filming a commercial. At some point Mauer approached Black and, out of the blue, told him Bartlett had been his favorite teammate.

"He plays the game the right way," Mauer told earlier this week.

San Diego reliever Pat Neshek was a teammate of Bartlett's in Minnesota from 2006-07 and vividly remembers the reaction to the news Bartlett that was sent to the Rays following the 2007 season.

"There were a lot of guys who were upset," Neshek said. "He was a great teammate and was just coming into his prime. You understand it's a business... but there were a lot of sad faces after he was traded."

Not a bad reputation for a player who is quiet by nature, who was once sent to the Minor Leagues by the Twins for not being vocal enough.

"I didn't like that, but playing shortstop you've got to be somewhat vocal, you've got to have that personality to move someone if they need moving, get on someone if they are not hustling or yell at a pitcher if you see something," Bartlett said.

"I look back on it [demotion] now, and while I didn't like it at the time, it's helped me."

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.