BALTIMORE -- Players try many different things to get through the long season, but it's what shortstop Jason Bartlett hasn't done that's been the key to his success. With his start on Sunday, Bartlett extended his streak of consecutive games played to 92. It's by far the longest stretch that he's ever played in his career. "I think it's all mental," Bartlett said. "I talked to [former Twins infielder] Ron Coomer the other day about it and he agreed that to keep going, you tell your body that it's not tired and remember it's all in your head. That's what I'm trying to do."
But while this stretch has been tough, it's also given Bartlett the chance to show how consistent he can be at the position. His dominant presence at shortstop has made the Twins hesitant to give him even just one day off while the club pushes for a playoff spot. "I think it's a character builder for Bart," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Knowing he can do it and still find a way to go out there and get it done. ... [He's] a little worn out, but it's something he's really learning from." Gardenhire has been so impressed with Bartlett's play that he described the 26-year-old on Sunday as the most consistent shortstop the organization has had since Greg Gagne, who played for the Twins from 1983-92. Bartlett has made so many routine plays recently that an error in the second inning of Saturday's game was a bit of a surprise to Gardenhire. "When you see him throwing the ball low yesterday, you were just like, 'Wow,' because he's been so consistent," Gardenhire said. "Bart's really has done everything that you can ask this year. His performance been great for this team." Knowing that those types of errors, which came a little more frequently for him last year, are now looked at with surprise is something that has given Bartlett a lot of pride. "I think my presence out there helps the team, and that's big for me," Bartlett said. "With me and Nick [Punto] on that left side, I think the pitchers have more confidence. They know that a lot of balls are going to be caught. It's good to be the guy out there that can give the team confidence." Blank spot: Exactly who will start on Thursday against the Royals is still a bit of a mystery. Gardenhire wouldn't give a definitive answer when asked Sunday morning about the spot, saying that the team will wait and see how things progress before making a decision. Scott Baker is still listed as the expected starter in the game, but that could change, as the club was not happy with his performance on Saturday. One candidate who appears to be ruled out is Brad Radke. With his bullpen session taking place on Monday, it appears that Radke won't start until at least Friday, because he needs rest between the bullpen session and his start. Such a sweet victory: Matt Guerrier had been waiting a long time for his first Major League win, and his teammates sure made it worth the wait. Guerrier's eyes were a tad blurry after Saturday's win, as he was doused with champagne and a shaving cream pie. Considering that Guerrier had gone 88 appearances without a victory -- the longest active streak in the Majors -- it seemed to be an event worth celebrating. But with falling just short of earning a win so many times, Guerrier said it wasn't until he got in the clubhouse that he really let himself appreciate the win. "A couple times this year, I did think about getting a win out there on the mound, and it affected the way that I threw," Guerrier said. "This time I tried to put it out of mind ... it's just good to get it out of the way." Get the party started: There has been a lot of debate as to whether the Twins will engage in a celebration if they clinch a spot in the playoffs early this week. Gardenhire had seemed hesitant to make a decision on the matter, knowing that his team would still be in the midst of a battle for the division title. But on Sunday, those doubts seemed to be erased. "I guarantee you, if we clinch a playoff spot, something will go on," Gardenhire said. "It may not be an all-out party, but I'm not going to deny these guys an opportunity to celebrate and say, 'Way to go.'" Perkins watch: Glen Perkins may have taken another step closer to securing a spot on the Twins' postseason roster. Perkins delivered two key outs in Saturday's game, entering in the sixth with the Twins leading, 6-5. Gardenhire hadn't wanted to use Perkins in tough situations, but wanting to save lefty Dennys Reyes for later in the game, the manager went to his only other lefty in the pen. Gardenhire still sees the young Perkins as a long shot to make the postseason roster, but judging by his comments, Perkins' chances are improving. "You have to take the best arms that give you a chance to win baseball games," Gardenhire said. "If it comes down to this stretch and he's throwing the ball really good, and he's getting people out and we get him in a couple more ballgames, he's definitely an option." Coming up: The Twins enter the final stretch of their hunt for a division title as they return to Minnesota for the last seven games of the regular season, starting with a 7:10 p.m. CT contest against the Royals on Monday. Right-hander Boof Bonser (6-5, 4.36) will try to pick up his first career win against Kansas City as he faces left-hander Jorge De La Rosa (3-3, 5.32).
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.