CLEVELAND -- The neck and shoulder issue that Jason Bartlett began experiencing in Spring Training has been blamed for his early-season woes, both offensively and defensively. Manager Ron Gardenhire thinks Bartlett's improved play of late is due to those issues disappearing. But ask the shortstop, and his answer is that those issues have not gone away. "It's still there," Bartlett said of his neck pain. "It's more frustrating than anything. There are times I think to myself, 'Could I have done something different or better if it wasn't hurting? Would I have been more flexible on a play or could I have gotten to a certain pitch?' It's just frustrating to think how I might be playing without it."
Bartlett credits his recent hot streak to thinking less, since overthinking has hindered him at times over the past couple of seasons. "I'm just trying to have fun out there," Bartlett said. "Every time I get down or start to struggle lately, I tell myself to go out there and have fun. And so far, it's been working." Bartlett had started to get a feel for his swing just before injuring his left hamstring in the final game at Seattle on Aug. 15. He missed a week due to the injury, but since his return, things haven't slowed down for the shortstop. He went 9-for-18 (.500) in the four-game series against the Orioles, tallying three triples and five RBIs. His overall average for the month of August entering Monday's game is .357, and he has 10 RBIs to go along with five triples. At a time when the Twins are looking for consistent production at the top of the lineup, with rookie Alexi Casilla hitting consistently in the leadoff spot, it seems an ideal time for Bartlett to heat up. "He didn't miss a beat after being out, which is important for us," Gardenhire said. "And I'm sure that it was a little bit of a refresher for the rest of his body. His legs are healthy now, so we'll see if he can maintain. It's a tough part of the year." Pitching merry-go-round: Kevin Slowey will not get called up to start the second game of Friday's doubleheader, as originally thought. Instead, the Twins will have Scott Baker pitch on his normal five-day schedule. The club had considered calling up Slowey from Triple-A Rochester because it was uncertain whether Baker could make it back to the Twin Cities on Wednesday to complete his bullpen session. They have now decided to make Slowey a September callup, and he still start on Sept. 4. Baker is now back in Louisiana with his wife, LeAnn, and newborn son, Easton. While mother and son are reported to be doing fine, the five-week-early delivery created a situation that made Gardenhire and his staff worry, with the possibility that Baker may have needed more time at home. Baker didn't get his side work in with the coaching staff before his start in Baltimore, and the coaching staff felt it showed on the mound. "If he doesn't get back for Wednesday to throw his side work, then he gets out of whack," Gardenhire said. "So those were all questions we had, and why we thought about leaving him on six days and pitching Saturday." But with Baker saying he will indeed return Wednesday, the decision has been made to keep his start on Friday. Matt Garza will still start Game 1 of the doubleheader and Carlos Silva will remain on his five-day plan to pitch Saturday's contest vs. Kansas City. Wait-and-see mode: Catcher Joe Mauer reported that his left hamstring was feeling better on Monday. It still appears that it will be days before Mauer is back in the lineup. He did exercise work in the pool at Jacobs Field on Monday afternoon, but he was still unable to do any sort of running drills. And while he's walking better, Mauer still isn't back to normal on that end, either. "It's not a big improvement," Gardenhire said of Mauer's condition. "Right now, he's Kirk Gibson waiting to pinch hit. That's where he's at right now, just dealing with a sore hammy." Twins tidbits: Dennys Reyes' MRI came back showing no acute injuries to his left elbow. Reyes underwent a cortisone shot on Monday afternoon and will be ready to return to the mound when his DL stint is up on Sept. 6. ... Glen Perkins' bullpen session on Sunday went well enough that he is scheduled to pitch on Tuesday for Double-A New Britain. Perkins experienced a normal level of soreness, but nothing that the club felt was enough to shut him down for the season. ... Jason Tyner extended his hitting streak to six games with a single in the third inning. Glimpse of the future: This year's Arizona Fall League rosters were announced on Monday. Pitchers Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing, Ryan Mullins and Anthony Swarzak, catcher Drew Butera, and infielders Trevor Plouffe and David Winfree will represent the Twins in this year's AFL. The seven players will join prospects from the A's, Orioles, Pirates and White Sox on the Phoenix Devil Dogs squad. The reporting date for players is Oct. 3 and the first game will take place on Oct. 9. Down on the farm: Slowey gave up one run over five innings to lead Rochester to a 4-3 victory over Pawtucket on Sunday. Matthew LeCroy hit his third home run of the season in the win. ... Frank Mata gave up three runs in his one inning of relief as New Britain fell to Connecticut, 6-4. Luke Hughes went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. ... Errol Simonitsch allowed just one unearned run over seven innings and struck out seven in Class A Fort Myers' 3-1 victory over Clearwater. Coming up: The Twins and Indians will square off again on Tuesday night in a 6:05 p.m. CT start. Right-hander Boof Bonser (6-10, 4.76) will get the start for the Twins while right-hander Jake Westbrook (4-7, 4.40) will take the hill for Cleveland.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.