Jays make defensive changesBautista in right, Encarnacion at third, Rivera DH
By MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency
|Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista hits a solo home run off Atlanta Braves' Scott Proctor. (REUTERS/Steve Nesius)
SARASOTA, Fla. — Jose Bautista never saw it coming.
On Tuesday morning, manager John Farrell announced to the press that Bautista, his 54-home-run slugger, would be returning to right field and that Edwin Encarnacion would move back to third while Juan Rivera would become the full-time DH.
Up until Tuesday, the Jays had decided to play Bautista at third, have Rivera in right and Encarnacion as the full-time DH.
“It’s as much of a surprise for me as it is for you guys,” Bautista said before Tuesday’s game against the Orioles. “I always said I think I’m more valuable to our team defence as we were set up in right field and I still believe that.”
Bautista, a close friend of Encarnacion, believes the move has a lot to do with how well Encarnacion prepared and has played this spring.
“I think it speaks volumes of the work that Edwin has done in the off-season and he came in in shape and improved his range and worked on his feet (foot work). He showed that he can handle third base and hopefully he goes out there and has a great year for us.
“Obviously they made the changes because they feel we’re better as a unit defensively with that configuration.”
While Encarnacion was inconsistent in the field at third in his 95 games last season, he was also inconsistent at the plate. A streaky hitter, Encarnacion hit .244 with 21 homers and 51 RBIs in 332 at-bats. The Jays hope his production will soar with regular at-bats by playing every day.
“I don’t think he had a bad year last year,” Bautista said. “His batting average wasn’t where he would have liked but production-wise, with the number of at-bats he had, I think he had a great season.
“With consistent at-bats hopefully his walks and batting average will improve and if he keeps up the production than that’s going to come out being a great season.”