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Bautista's return a big boost for Blue Jays

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

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.

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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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