ANAHEIM, Calif. — Jose Bautista is back with the Blue Jays.
Perhaps it was his mere presence in the lineup that inspired his teammates, especially Jayson Nix, to greater heights as the Jays rallied against the formidable presence of Ervin Santana to pull out a 3-2 victory and spoil the home opener of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Santana had rung up a 3-0 record against the Jays last season and had won four in a row overall, but that streaked was stopped thanks to a two-out, two-run double by Adam Lind in the sixth and a solo home run by Nix in the eighth.
The home opener provided the sell out crowd of 43,853 with the opportunity to witness first hand the play of their new left fielder — former Blue Jay Vernon Wells.
Wells spent the past 12 season with the Jays as their centre fielder but on a new team now mans a new position. They didn’t much like what they saw.
Wells entered the game in an 0-for-12 skid and on the season came into the game hitting just .111 (3-for-27) with no home runs and just one RBI.
Against his old club he had a miserable night at the plate going 0-for-4 while stranding five runners, three in scoring position.
He also made a tentative play in the field in the sixth that led to the first two Toronto runs. With two out and a runner at first, Wells backed up on a sharply hit liner from Bautista that fell at his feet for a single. Lind followed with his two-run double to left centre.
Bautista, meanwhile, returned to the Jays following a three-game absence due to the birth of his daughter in Tampa.
Over the past two seasons, the Jays have lost first Roy Halladay and this off-season Vernon Wells, each move opening the door for younger players to perform and hopefully grow.
“I’ve been on a lot of different teams where you lose that figure (veteran leader) and it’s kind of hard because of the group, it’s not very united,” Bautista said. “But for us I think it’s been great because it’s a young core and everybody has kind of come up together. I wasn’t part of that group but since I’ve been here for a couple of years now, I’m integrated and everybody does a good job of whoever comes in, we embrace him and we try to make him part of the family and feel as welcome as we can. I think that’s the biggest indicator and the biggest factor that’s going to allow a team to overcome losing a leader and I think that’s what helped this ball club do that.”
It wasn’t the best game for Bautista in a Jays uniform.
In the first inning he struck out in is first at bat and in the bottom of the inning, he bounced a throw by Jayson Nix at third for an error that allowed Bobby Abreu to trot home with the first run.
In the Angels third, he lost a ball in the lights that bounced off his chest for a single and later in the inning, made a poor throw up the line throwing to the plate.
He finished the game 1-for-4 and with a team win.
All in all, a much better night than Wells.