Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett faces challenge adjusting to two double play partners


Most of Jason Bartlett's life is very organized. The Rays All-Star shortstop seems to know where he has to be, what he wants and how he likes things.

And then there is the most hectic and, at times, critical part of his job, where he will have to deal with doing things two different ways around second base with two different partners.

Whereas most teams have a set combination up the middle, the Rays are looking at a time share, with Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez taking turns based on pitching matchups. And while that may maximize their offense, it will also increase the degree of difficulty for their Bartlett-led defense.

"I'm used to it, so that's fine with me," Bartlett said. "Those guys are easy to play with."

The diplomacy is part of his deal as he tries to make it comfortable for both Zobrist, who is still somewhat new to the position, and Rodriguez, who is new to the team following his last-season acquisition from the Angels.

"I don't think it's the ideal situation, but he's flexible with it just like we are," Zobrist said. "It takes a different kind of a guy to be able to do that without having a problem with it."

From Bartlett's perspective, there are two areas of concern.

One is the ball hit slowly up the middle.

When paired with Akinori Iwamura, in 2008 and until his May 2009 knee injury, Bartlett knew Iwamura most often would charge aggressively to make a barehand play, so he would hang back. Now he has to get a feel for the range factor with Zobrist, whom he played with part of last season (along with Willy Aybar), and Rodriguez.

The other is the double play feed, both giving and getting. That tends, given the number of moving parts, to be a little more complicated.

"It's just like a dance," said Tim Bogar, the former Rays coach now with Boston. "You're trying to figure out every move they make, every angle they throw from, every way they're going to deliver the ball, the communication between them."

In this case there's a lot to learn.

"It's not 50 steps," Rodriguez said, "but it's like five important ones."

Both second basemen are trying to accommodate Bartlett by keeping their feeds low since he prefers to throw from a sidearm, or three-quarters, position. And Bartlett has to learn what to expect, whether it will be a hard throw or a pitched flip, as well as the timing. Rodriguez is a little quicker and flashier, Zobrist more mechanical (though he has been working on the flip).

"Bart's one of those guys that can just adjust," Rays infield coach Tom Foley said. "He'll see the ball and go to the ball. He's not one of those guys that's just going to come flying across the bag."

When the ball is hit to Bartlett, he has to get a feel for where his partners want it delivered as they try to make the turn with a runner coming hard. Whereas Iwamura preferred it on the outside of the base, Foley said both Zobrist and Rodriguez like it over the middle.

"It's not a huge thing," Rodriguez said, "but it's definitely more important than people would think."

If it was a dance, Foley said (admittedly dating himself at age 50), it would be a waltz. "Everything has to be smooth," he said. "A smooth transition, and a flow."

Actually, Zobrist said, they wouldn't look too good. "We'd be doing two different dances," he said. "(Bartlett's) smooth. He'd make it look easy, I'd make it look hard."

Marc Topkin can be reached at

Paired up

Jason Bartlett got used to rotating partners last season after spending most of 2008 with one:

2009 2BGames2008 2BGames

Doubled up

How many double plays does a shortstop turn? Here's Jason Bartlett's breakdown on ground ball DPs the past two seasons:

Year Total 6-4-3 6-3 4-6-3 1-6-3 3-6-3

2008 62 28 4 24 2 4

2009 50 19 4 17 5 5


Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett faces challenge adjusting to two double play partners 03/30/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 9:09am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs' Josh Robinson excited for return to Vikings


    For much of Josh Robinson's four seasons with the Vikings, there was excitement leading up to the arrival of the $1.1-billion U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last season, just as Robinson signed with the …

    Josh Robinson (26) tackles Chicago punt returner Eddie Royal (19) during a game between the Bucs and Bears in 2016. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. For starters: Rays at Orioles, meeting up with ex-mate Tim Beckham


    The Rays open their final roadtrip of the season tonight in Baltimore, and - continuing the theme of the week - willl cross paths with another familiar face, INF Tim Beckham.

    Tim Beckham made a smashing debut with the Orioles, hitting .394 with six homers and 19 RBIs in August.
  3. From the archives: Account of famed Riggs-King match heightens Tampa mob intrigue


    With the Sept. 29 opening of "Battle of the Sexes" — the movie starring Emma Stone and Steve Carrell about Billie Jean King's landmark 1973 tennis win over Bobby Riggs — we thought there might be renewed interest in this 2013 Peter Jamison story from the Tampa Bay Times.

    Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs in "Battle of the Sexes."  [Melinda Sue Gordon, Fox Searchlight Pictures]
  4. It's not a game, but the names are all the same in this football family


    TAMPA — A coach yells across the field into a scrum of blue-and-white clad football bodies at Jefferson High: "Kim Mitchell! Kim Mitchell, come here!"

    These twins are not only identical, but they have almost identical names. Kim Mitchell III, left, and Kim Mitchell IV are  talented football players at Jefferson High with Division I-A college offers. Kim  III wears No. 22 and plays cornerback while Kim IV wears No. 11 and plays safety. (Scott Purks, Special to the Times)
  5. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (3) pumps his fist to the crowd after Tampa Bay's 29-7 victory over Chicago on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. The Bucs play at Minnesota at 1 p.m. Sunday. WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times