Fred Lewis believes he could be the next Jose Bautista in waiting - if only given the chance.
Not a bad player to try to emulate as Bautista continued his relentless 2010 power play, delighting the gathering at Rogers Centre on Friday night with two more home runs in a 6-4 victory by the Toronto Blue Jays (78-75) over the Baltimore Orioles (61-92).
With nine games left in the regular season, Bautista has now stroked a Major League-leading 52 on the season and continues to obliterate the old franchise record of 47 that was set in 1987 by George Bell.
After reaching the milestone of 50 on Thursday against the Seattle Mariners, Bautista is showing no signs of slowing down, his effort against Baltimore his eighth multi home run game of the season.
"For the most part I'm going to stick to my game plan," Bautista said afterward. "Get good pitches to hit and try to hit them hard."
The Blue Jays won despite getting out hit 16-5, the largest margin in franchise history the team has ever been out hit by and still managed to win.
While Bautista is reveling his success, Lewis can only sit and stew, his season now officially done after scheduling surgery next week to take care of a nagging bunion on his left foot.
Lewis said he could still play, but with his playing opportunities occurring so few and far between he felt it made more sense to have the surgery right away so he can be fully recovered by the time spring training rolls around in February.
For most of the season Toronto's leadoff hitter, Lewis has found himself getting squeezed for playing time of late by manager Cito Gaston, who more often than not calls upon DeWayne Wise when he wants to give one of his regular outfielders a breather.
Gaston has stated that Wise has moved ahead of Lewis in the pecking order and Lewis is obviously not happy about his lack of playing time after posting decent offensive numbers over the first four months of the season.
Asked if he could be happy returning to the team next season in a similar backup capacity, Lewis chose his words carefully, mindful of the presence of a Blue Jay official loitering nearby within earshot.
"I can't say that right now because I know the type of player I am and I just want to play every day," Lewis said. "I'm pretty much an everyday player. So I really can't say."
We'll take that as a qualified no.
Lewis only has to glance across the Blue Jays clubhouse and spot Bautista to be reminded of the benefits a regular tour of duty in the starting lineup can have.
Back in 2008 when he was still with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bautista was not an everyday player and was relegated to Triple-A before he got traded to the Blue Jays.
"So it's there, just like Bautista," Lewis said. "Given the chance he took and ran with it and look at the year he had.
"I want to be the same way."
Lewis showed early on, after arriving in Toronto before the season was two weeks old in a trade from the San Francisco Giants, he could produce offensively.
Over the first four months of the season hitting primarily out of the leadoff spot, Lewis hit .280 with seven home runs, 27 doubles and 30 RBIs in 84 games.
He could also steal a base and remains Toronto's leader with 17.
In August and September, Lewis has played in just 26 games, batting .201 with one home run, four doubles and six RBIs.
"It's tough to get in a rhythm like that," Lewis said.
Bautista got Toronto's offence rolling in the first inning when he belted his first home run off Baltimore starter Chris Tillman.
After Vernon Wells added a two-run shot in the fourth Bautista notched his second in the sixth inning that put Toronto in front 5-1 and made a winner of Brett Cecil, who improved to 14-7.
Closer Kevin Gregg was summoned in the ninth to protect a 6-3 lead but he stumbled, allowing a Baltimore run off a walk and two hits that trimmed the score to 6-4.
With runners at second and third and two out, Gaston had seen enough after Gregg fell behind 2-0 to pinch hitter Matt Wieters.
On came Jesse Carlson who got the third out - and the save - when he got Wieters to fly out to left.
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