Bartlett, Padres ready to start season

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres announced their opening day roster for 2011 and 13 of the players were not with the team in 2011.

One of the new players, shortstop Jason Bartlett, is actually a former Padre coming back to his original team, and the shortstop can't wait to become a key component when the Padres' season starts Thursday afternoon in St. Louis.

"It was actually a good feeling when I was coming back here because my wife and I love the sun, we love nice weather," Bartlett said recently. "If I'm going to leave Tampa, what better place to go than San Diego? So it was a perfect fit."

Bartlett came to San Diego in an off-season trade with the Rays in exchange for pitchers Cesar Ramos and Adam Russell, and immediately formed a new double-play duo with free agent-signee and second baseman Orlando Hudson.

Along with new first baseman Brad Hawpe, three of the Padres' infielders are new to the team, something Bartlett finds exciting.

"I've been through it with the Rays every year," Bartlett said. "It was a different guy every season and it makes it fun. You can do more work to get to know the guy but once you get out there, it's fun because with O-Dog (Hudson), he's awesome. He's an All Star, he's a Gold Glove guy. It's going to be fun, and Chase has great range over there (at third base). I think as long as Brad picks my throws over there, I think we'll be good."

Bartlett spent the previous three season in Tampa where he and the Rays advanced to the post-season twice, including the 2008 World Series. He says that gave him the experience the Padres need to get over the hump this season, after missing out on the playoffs by one game in 2010.

"I know that from day one we've got to win ball games," Bartlett said. "It could come down to one game like it did last year. So I think that you never want that.

"So it's all about trying to win that game, that day. You can't look ahead, you can't look at what's happened.”

The Padres originally drafted Bartlett in 2001 out of the University of Oklahoma, then traded him away to Minnesota for Brian Buchanan in 2002.

Now that he's back with his original team, the 31 year-old Stockton, CA native with a lifetime .281 batting average, says he plans to show Padres fans that he was worth the wait.

"I play hard," Bartlett said. "I might not always get the big hit or make the best play but I'm going to give it all I've got, and I think fans appreciate that. I think they see it. I like to have fun. I like to try and keep it loose. If we lose, it's not a great thing but we’ve got to come back tomorrow and get them.”

The Padres open the season Thursday at St. Louis at 1:15 PDT. Tim Stauffer will start for the Padres on the mound and Chris Carpenter will pitch for the Cardinals.

 The Padres play the World Series champion San Francisco Giants in their home opener at Petco Park on Tuesday, April 5th at 3:35 PDT. Patrick Henry High School graduate Aaron Harang will start the home opener for the Padres.

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