Bautista enjoying job security

Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista signs autographs for fans at the team's spring training facility...

Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista signs autographs for fans at the team's spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida on February 25, 2011. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:22 PM ET

DUNEDIN For Jose Bautista this spring marks a huge break with the past.

Its not just the five-year, $65-million bonanza that a 54-home run season dropped in his lap but the fact hes not fighting for a job.

This is the first one that Im not battling for a spot, said Bautista Saturday after going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in Torontos 4-0 defeat by the Tigers in the Grapefruit League opener for both teams.

Its fun. It allows me to relax and concentrate on the details of perfecting as much as I can my game.

Im not treating these like regular at-bats because its not the time yet. I just want to make contact, and get that rhythm. Plenty of time yet to start thinking about results.

After months of physical workouts and weeks of baseball preparation, Bautista was thrilled to get back on the field and play the game

Its good to get that adrenalin going, he said. Its better than playing your teammates because, no matter how hard you try, those intersquad games are just not the same.

In his short time here, John Farrell has marvelled at how obviously Bautista has assumed a leadership role.

What you see with Jose is not only the physical abilities, but inside these walls here and the way he goes about his work on the field, he sets the tone, Farrell said. Hes always the first guy in the line, the guy leading the pack in early conditioning drills. After the workouts, a lot of guys are falling in line with his example in the gym.

Thats the definition of a leader.

Like Farrell, Bautista believes theres plenty of time this spring to experiment, then settle on a lineup that works. Its important to establish some protection for Bautista wherever he bats but thats not happening soon.

Its just something hes playing with right now to get different looks, Bautista said. Im going to have to adjust to whatever he goes with. If he goes with flip-flopping three and four, Ill deal with that. If I stay at either three or four, Ill deal with that.

Last year, Bautista batted in seven different spots in the order, including leadoff, so hes proven he can adapt.

It was a year where we had to move around a lot of people, Bautista said. It was more a matter of juggling with whatever pieces we had at the moment. But again, Johns the manager and hell decide whats best for the team and once he tells me what my role is going to be and where Im going to hit, Ill do as best I can.

So ... lead off again, right?

I dont think Rajai Davis would agree with you on that one, said Bautista, with a laugh.


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