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Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista keeps an eye on a ball from Baltimore Orioles Tommy Hunter during the fifth inning of MLB baseball action in Toronto on Friday April 13 , 2012. (Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista keeps an eye on a ball from Baltimore Orioles Tommy Hunter during the fifth inning of MLB baseball action in Toronto on Friday April 13 , 2012. (Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Robert MacLeod

Bautista not out of the woods yet Add to ...

 

In the last month or so Jose Bautista has swung the bat like the player he has resembled the past two seasons, at least from a power perspective.

There have also been plenty of moments where the Toronto outfielder has been his own worst enemy – chasing pitches outside the strike zone that have resulted in strikeouts or lazy pop flies to the right side of the field.

As anyone who closely watches the Blue Jays can attest, Bautista’s frustrations are evident; from his frequent disagreements with the umpires to the way he angrily slaps his bat with his hand after another failed at-bat.

So don’t even bother suggesting to the 31-year-old that after the month of May, in which he rapped nine home runs with 22 runs batted in to go along with a .257 batting average, that his swing appears to be in sync.

He’s not buying it.

“It’s kind of getting back to normal,” Bautista said on Monday. “I’m not feeling great about it. Just trying to get back to basics, getting a game plan, developing it and then trying to put it to work when the game starts.”

The Blue Jays took advantage of an off day on Monday and held their annual charity golf classic at The Club at Bond Head, north of Toronto.

Later in the afternoon, the Blue Jays flew to Chicago where they’ll begin a three-game series Tuesday night against the White Sox.

Bautista remains frustrated with a .226 batting average on the year, almost 80 points lower than where he finished up in 2011. His strikeout rate has increased to one in every 5.1 at-bats (from 4.6 in 2011) while his walk ratio has also worsened, to one in every 6.6 at-bats (from 3.9).

“I’ve gotten used to performing the last three years, so I don’t take it lightly when I don’t,” Bautista said. “I’m my own worst critic and I stay on my [backside] pretty hard when I don’t perform.”

Following a 5-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox in Toronto on Sunday, in which Bautista contributed a three-run home run, the Blue Jays improved their record to 28-26.

That tied Toronto with Boston for last place in the tightly bunched American League East standing heading into play on Monday, where only three games separated last place from first.

Toronto manager John Farrell said nobody associated with the club believes the team has hit its stride yet so it is fortunate that the Blue Jays are still very much in the playoff hunt.

“The way the division shapes up, even with some missed opportunities we’re certainly in the thick of it,” Farrell said. “Yet we’ve got to improve. And I see some changes in our lineup coming up to try to jump start things a little bit more. And we’ve got to be a little bit more consistent in the bullpen.”

Those changes will likely include the addition of veteran slugger Vladimir Guerrero, who is currently working on his game with Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas.

The Blue Jays received some good news late Sunday night when additional X-rays on the right hand of designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, injured when he got hit by a pitch during Sunday’s game, revealed there were no broken bones.

Bautista has led the major leagues each of the past two seasons in homes runs, last year stroking 43 – although only 12 came after the All-Star Game where he participated in the home run derby, crashing out in the first round.

Bautista said he hopes to participate in it again this year if asked.

“I take it like batting practice,” he said. “If I hit some out, I hit some out. If not, whatever.”

 

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