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Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista looks into the stands between innings during a MLB American League baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Florida, August 9, 2012. (Steve Nesius/REUTERS)

Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista looks into the stands between innings during a MLB American League baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Florida, August 9, 2012.

(Steve Nesius/REUTERS)

Robert MacLeod

Bautista's return a big boost for Blue Jays Add to ...

The Toronto Blue Jays will be relying heavily on Jose Bautista’s bat to help return them to prominence in the American League East in 2013.

The 32-year-old outfielder is considered one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball, but he was sidelined for 70 games last season after injuring his left wrist.

Without a healthy Bautista in the lineup, the 73-89 Blue Jays were a different team. When he played, the Jays had a 45-47 record (.489) and averaged six runs a game, while hitting for a combined .252.

For his part, Bautista hit .241 and was tied for second in the AL in home runs (27) at the time of his injury in July.

That works out to a homer every 12.3 at-bats, which would have led the majors if Bautista had enough plate appearances to qualify.

With Bautista out of the lineup, Toronto’s record dipped to 28-42 (.400), the team batting average dipped 15 points to .237, and the club averaged a measly 3.8 runs per contest.

While the Blue Jays will count on a healthy Bautista to provide consistent offensive punch in 2013, Toronto is also hoping for a break-out season from Canadian third baseman Brett Lawrie, whose power numbers at the plate dipped noticeably (nine homers in 150 at-bats in 2011; 11 homers in 494 at-bats in 2012).

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