Jason Bartlett is in his fourth season -- and first full season -- with the Twins after establishing himself last year when he hit .309 in 99 games after getting recalled by the club in June. This season, the 6-foot, 185-pound shortstop earned a spot on the Opening Day roster and is competing as a regular for the first time. The 27-year-old Californian recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Tell us a little bit about your season to date?

Bartlett: It's been a rather up-and-down season for me so far. My start was a little rough, but I then got on a roll there for a little bit. I've been bothered a bit by a sore neck but that's part of the game and something that everybody in this clubhouse deals with. We battle through it.

MLBPLAYERS.com: As a younger player, is it hard to let the club know that you might not be physically able to go out there at times?

Bartlett: In a way, but it's your career and if you play with something long enough it can get worse and you'll regret it. Before I got an MRI, it was something I talked to people about. I was glad that I went in and found out what was going on.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Last year, you hit well in 99 games. Did that success last year really help your confidence?

Bartlett: I've been pretty confident, but numbers in this game aren't everything. It's a long season, and a guy who is usually around .300 is probably going to be there again at the end of the year. I know there is a lot of baseball left this year.

MLBPLAYERS.com: You're 12-for-12 stealing bases this season, you stole 10 bases last year and you've stolen as many as 40 in the Minors. Is running the bases well and stealing bags a big part of your game?

Bartlett: Yes it is. It is a big part of this team, actually. As long as we stay healthy, we will keep doing it. Health is a big key for a lot of teams. We play on that turf in Minnesota and it bangs up your knees and hands a little bit.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Defense, especially at the shortstop position, is another big aspect of this game. Where are you right now defensively?

Bartlett: Defensively, I'm trying to get better every day. I've talked a lot to our second baseman, Luis Castillo, and he has helped me out. He knows what he's doing over there.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Castillo recently had his Major League-record errorless streak for a second baseman end at 143 games. As a middle infielder in particular, how do you look at a mark like that?

Bartlett: It's pretty impressive. Right now I'm just trying to get through a single series without an error. He's pretty awesome to watch out in the field.

MLBPLAYERS.com: You were originally drafted by the Padres before coming to the Twins organization. This is your fifth season with this franchise. Considering the Twins' well-earned reputation for developing players, do you feel like you have been brought along the right way?

Bartlett: They've given me opportunities throughout. If I've played well, they have let me play. I didn't really establish myself until last year, and now I have to keep that going.

MLBPLAYERS.com: You played in three playoff games last year. How big a difference did you find between playing games in October compared to the regular season?

Bartlett: The biggest thing I saw was the "little things." You also hear that pitching and defense wins ballgames. That's really what it's like when you get to the playoffs. When you get a lead, you have to hold onto it.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Here in Minnesota you play with elite players such as Joe Mauer, Torii Hunter, Johan Santana, Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan. How exciting is that?

Bartlett: It's great, but a lot of guys, including myself, don't see it like that. I came up with some of them and they're really like one of the guys. We have fun in this clubhouse and there's nobody who really stands above the rest of us.

MLBPLAYERS.com: What was the biggest thing you learned from playing some college ball at the University of Oklahoma.

Bartlett: Work ethic. Down there you're doing something every day that involves working hard and giving lots of effort. That was a good experience and that's how guys who went to that school play the game.

MLBPLAYERS.com: And finally, while most of your time in the Twin Cities is during the summer, how big of a difference is the temperature when you compare humid Oklahoma to frigid Minnesota?

Bartlett: Thank goodness for the dome. It will be nice to have an outdoor stadium here, but I'm not so sure about what it will be like at the beginning of the season.

Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.