MIN@STL: Bartlett's RBI single evens the score

JUPITER, Fla. -- Before Wednesday's game against the Cardinals, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire insisted he wasn't worried about infielder Jason Bartlett's hitless spring.

"The numbers in Spring Training never affect me if you're having quality at-bats," Gardenhire said.

Minnesota's skipper finally saw a quality at-bat by Bartlett produce a hit on Wednesday, when he lined an RBI single into right-center field in the sixth inning off the Cardinals' Carlos Martinez. That snapped Bartlett's 0-for-26 start to Grapefruit League play, including his first two plate appearances on Wednesday.

"Barty got one finally," said Gardenhire, who joked that the Twins kept the ball. "He's been pushing for it. Nice swing by him."

Bartlett, who played for Minnesota from 2004-07, is competing for a utility job after signing a Minor League contract in November. The 34-year-old started at third base on Wednesday, and he also has played second base, shortstop, center field and right field this spring.

After Bartlett played only 29 games in 2012 and sat out all of last season, Gardenhire is more concerned with his physical condition than his offensive numbers.

"I just want to make sure his legs are underneath him, that he can move around," Gardenhire said. "And then we'll see how it breaks down here at the end. I like the kid an awful lot. He's a winner."

Minors options factor into Twins' roster decisions

Ron Gardenhire has roster decisions to make before Opening Day.

JUPITER, Fla. -- Major League front offices have many factors to take into account when deciding on Opening Day roster spots, and the result isn't always a strict meritocracy.

One such factor weighing on the Twins this spring is the option system. Several Minnesota players battling for jobs -- including three (Samuel Deduno, Vance Worley and Scott Diamond) of the four candidates for the fifth-starter spot -- are out of options, meaning they can't be sent to the Minor Leagues without first passing through waivers and giving every other organization a chance to claim them.

This can create differences of opinion between a front office trying to protect assets and a manager who wants the best 25 players right now. Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire is in that category, although he said Wednesday that he does understand the other factors involved.

"Yeah, but do I have to agree with it? No," Gardenhire said.

"Sometimes when you run out of options, you've had plenty of chances here to figure the thing out. So they're deceiving. Don't let them deceive you. They don't deceive me. They are in my way."

Assistant general manager Rob Antony pointed out that many good players use up their three option years because it takes them that long to adjust and get settled at the Major League level. Some players get rushed or have their development delayed by injuries or other issues.

"You have to deal with what makes sense," Antony said. "The manager's job is to win ballgames every day, and their vision is, 'What can I do? How can I have the best team right now?'

"It's our job to balance and look down the road a little bit, not just tomorrow. As we've talked about a lot this spring, who you break with is not necessarily what you have two weeks or a month into the season. Things can change, but sometimes you make decisions for the best of the organization. We're going to try to give [Gardenhire] the best team possible and the team he's most comfortable with."

Has Gardenhire, entering his 13th season at the helm in Minnesota, ever started a year with the exact 25-man roster he wanted?

"In this lifetime?" he quipped.

On the other hand, Gardenhire said he has a "good relationship" with the entire front office.

"They see what I see," he said. "They know."

Antony disappointed in roster competition

Rotation candidate Vance Worley allowed seven runs on Tuesday.

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Twins were hoping that competition would bring out the best in some of their players this Spring Training, but according to assistant general manager Rob Antony, that hasn't happened. With less than two weeks to go until the regular season begins, several players fighting for starting positions or roster spots are scuffling.

"I wish somebody would step up and earn a job," Antony said before Wednesday's 3-1 loss against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. "Nobody's really doing that."

Among those Antony mentioned were some of the candidates for the fifth-starter job. While Kyle Gibson was strong over 4 1/3 innings during his start on Wednesday, and Samuel Deduno has a 2.19 ERA even after giving up two runs in 2 2/3 innings later in Wednesday's game, the others have endured more trouble. Scott Diamond will enter Thursday's start having allowed 20 baserunners in 9 2/3 innings, and Vance Worley sports a 13.50 ERA after giving up seven runs to the Rays on Tuesday night.

Antony said center-field competitors Aaron Hicks and Alex Presley haven't "been anything special," although Hicks went 1-for-2 with a walk and a stolen base on Wednesday. Potential designated hitter Jason Kubel has gone 2-for-25. Among the utility infield candidates, Jason Bartlett broke an 0-for-26 skid with his RBI single in Wednesday's sixth inning, while Eduardo Escobar has hit well, but according to Antony, had "defensive lapses."

It all adds up to one of the more difficult springs Antony has experienced.

"Nobody's really stepped up to try to earn the spots, and that's a bad feeling when you're looking at giving spots away," he said.

Worth noting

• After making his Grapefruit League debut on Tuesday, shortstop Pedro Florimon was back in the lineup on Wednesday. He played five innings in the field -- making a highlight-reel play on a grounder up the middle -- and went 0-for-2 with a strikeout. Florimon, who had his appendix removed on Feb. 17, will play almost every day for the rest of the spring, according to Gardenhire.

"Every day, I put his name at shortstop right now, and then I'll see how he looks," said Gardenhire, who plans to give Florimon another five or six innings on Thursday night against the Rays. "When he seems like he's dragging a little bit, then I'll take him out. But I'm going to put him in there. He needs at-bats, and more, he needs time on his legs. He needs his legs underneath him."