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)

Uphill climb for Tampa Bay Rays' Jason Bartlett hits All-Star heights

Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett said that about a month into this season, his agent, Ryan Ware, first broached the subject of the All-Star Game.

"He said, 'You know, Joe (Maddon) is going to be the manager,' " Bartlett remembered. "I was like, 'Yeah. But I want to earn it.' "

That mentality is nothing new to Bartlett, who has had to continually prove himself throughout his journey from unheralded prospect to Rays team MVP in their World Series run.

Bartlett, a native of Mountain View, Calif., said he didn't even start his junior year in high school. He was drafted in the 13th round as a senior by the Padres in 2001.

"Thirteenth-round seniors typically don't play in the big leagues — much less be an All-Star," longtime Twins scout John Leavitt said. "It's an amazing story."

Said Ware: "He's truly a guy who has fought and scratched and clawed for everything he's gotten in this game. He wasn't a high draft pick, didn't rocket through the minor leagues. He earned it every step of the way."

The Rays saw Bartlett's value after he arrived before the 2008 season with right-hander Matt Garza in the Delmon Young deal. His defensive handiwork solidified the Rays infield, his baserunning and instincts little things that played a big role.

This year, Bartlett has been even better, with his .358 batting average among the majors' best and his eight home runs a welcome surprise considering he had 11 in his first 1,533 at-bats.

"Last year he was voted as our MVP, and a lot of people questioned that," Maddon said. "Now you're seeing what he does for our team when he's here right now. By far, even though he played so well last year, I think he's played even better this year. … He's really elevated his game."

Bartlett said it didn't really sink in he was an All-Star until he was lying in bed Saturday night. He texted his older brother, Jeff, reminiscing about how far he had come from playing Wiffle Ball in the front yard.

Bartlett, 29, said that with the road he had to take, being an All-Star means more. "For me and everybody that I played with growing up. I hear from friends back home, 'Wow, this is awesome. It's a dream come true.' My brother says I'm living out his dream."

It is in California where Bartlett's career took a turn. Then in the Padres system playing for Lake Elsinore, he caught Leavitt's eye by doing the little things: hustling, stealing bases.

The Twins were working on a deal with the Padres, and then-Twins GM Terry Ryan told Leavitt they wanted middle infield depth. Leavitt told Ryan that Bartlett's stats won't jump off the page, "but the more I saw him, the more I liked him."

"I have to say, I didn't think he'd be an All-Star," Leavitt said. "You certainly don't ever want to put a lid on somebody's ceiling, but I thought he had a chance to be an everyday player, a certainty to be a utility guy, certainty to be a big-leaguer. … He certainly got bigger and stronger, and better, in all three phases …

"He can be an All-Star for years to come. This is not a fluke."

Bartlett thought he could always hit; it has just all come together this year. He put on weight in the offseason and has a more aggressive yet disciplined approach. "This power thing that's coming, hopefully it sticks with me," he said. "When things are clicking, it's pretty fun."

Bartlett said it'll be fun to join three Rays in St. Louis, as well as some Twins such as good friends Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.

"He's a guy that means a lot to a baseball team," Morneau said. "He does the little things. They said he made the difference last year for them. (Brendan Harris) has done a good job for us at short, but at the same time, you see (Bartlett) hitting .360 and wonder what it would be like. …

"It's just fun to see a guy you played with in the minor leagues, a guy you grew up with together in baseball get (to the All-Star game). And deservedly so."

Joe Smith can be reached at

Uphill climb for Tampa Bay Rays' Jason Bartlett hits All-Star heights 07/06/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 7, 2009 7:02am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays late-night bullpen shuffle: Alvarado, Pruitt down; Kolarek up


    The Rays shuffled their bullpen again after Tuesday's game, sending down struggling LHP Jose Alvarado along with RHP Austin Pruitt to Triple-A Durham, and turning next to LHP Adam Kolarek, who will make his major-league debut at age 28,

  2. Rays journal: Alex Cobb brilliant, Alex Colome worrying in 10-inning victory (w/video)

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — RHP Alex Cobb couldn't have been much better for the Rays on Tuesday, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning while working eight solid. And Alex Colome couldn't have been much worse, blowing a two-run ninth-inning lead.

    Rays starter Alex Cobb carries a no-hitter into the seventh and pitches eight shutout innings in his best outing of the season.
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Pirates game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb continues to look better and better, which could make the decision whether to trade him tougher. Cobb had a no-hitter through six and threw his biggest pitch with a 1-0 lead in the seventh, getting Josh Bell to roll into a double play.

  4. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  5. Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, Pittsburgh

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Pirates

    7:05, PNC Park, Pittsburgh

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Blake Snell #4 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)