Jose used to look right

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

TORONTO - John Shelby was the Pittsburgh Pirates’ first base coach in 2006-07.

Like any coach, he had a regular group of hitters to throw to each day during batting practice.

Joey Bats, or The Babe, as he’s now known now, Jose Bautista, was in his group. And if Bautista has been Babe-like, well Adam Lind resembles The Iron Horse of late.

How many home runs did Shelby give up to Bautista? Was it hundreds? Thousands, as coach Dave McKay gave up BP homers to Mark McGwire over the years with the Oakland A’s and the St. Louis Cardinals?

“Not too many,” said Shelby, now a coach with the Milwaukee Brewers. “He never pulled the ball when I had him.”

Hold on a second — 30 to 35 pitches, roughly 150 nights a season and Bautista didn’t fill the left-field bleachers with souvenirs?

“He hit the ball to right field — that was his swing then,” said Shelby.

Bautista said Pirates officials wanted the right-handed hitter to take the ball to right centre. Dave Littlefield was the Bucs general manager and Jim Tracy the manager.

“They saw me being late,” said Bautista standing at his locker, making an awkward swing, his foot in the bucket, and an imaginary bat swung up in his eyes. “It wasn’t because I couldn’t catch up to a fastball, trying to hit it 700 feet. It was because I didn’t have my timing down.”

Bautista had the same right-field approach in 2008 when he was traded to the Blue Jays for Robinzon Diaz.

“John Buck and John MacDonald were the same way. They went the other way,” said Jays hitting coach Dwayne Murphy, who arrived in 2008 as the hitting coach for Cito Gaston’s second managing stint.

It was not until after Alex Rios vacated right field that the light went on for Bautista: He was able to repeat the swing Murphy and Gaston had taught him and he had regular playing time.

Ten homers in his final 98 at bats in 2009. Then, 54 in 683 to lead the majors. And 21 in his first 274 at-bats going into the Cincinnati Reds series this weekend.

“To everyone’s amazement, he’s making solid contact to left,” Shelby said. “I saw the balls he hit out to right in Minneapolis.”

Shelby was a coach with the Baltimore Orioles in 2010 and asked Bautista for an autographed ball.

“Tell you what kind of guy Jose is: He sends over five signed balls for each one of my sons,” Shelby said.

Jeff Cox was the Pirates’ third base coach from 2006-07.

“Toronto makes those swing changes,” said Cox, now with the Chicago White Sox. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think he would be what he is today.

While he didn’t see a 50-homer season in Bautista’s future, the upbeat Cox was in love with Bautista’s athletic talents.

“Ask him. I used to tell him: ‘You are special. You are going to be something someday,’” the upbeat Cox said. “He could play the infield and had power potential. I hit him fungos at second, third and short.

“No one envisioned he’d hit 54, but how do you let a guy with his versatility get away from the organization?”

Cox said Jays scout Mike Berger told him one night in Pittsburgh in 2007, that Bautista was their best centre fielder, “before Nate McClouth arrived.”

Hello ‘Me Mo’

Remember that TV ad the Jays had about right-hander Juan Guzman?

“Juan Guzman travelled 2,530 miles from Santo Domingo to Toronto.

“Now, his fastball travels 60 feet, six inches.”

Jack Morris watched the ad in 1993 and asked Pat Hengten in the Jays dugout: “Why are they showing the ad of him. Everyone knows you’re the ‘Me Mo’ here.”

What in the name of Jacob Brumfield or Garth Iorg is a ‘Me Mo?’

“No, idea,” said Hentgen, former Cy Young Award winner and current Jays bullpen coach. “Main man? Jack only said it once. It stuck.”

Morris had that effect on a room.

Such as the night Kirby Puckett went 3-for-4, including a walkoff homer in the 11th to force Game 7 against the Atlanta Braves in the 1991 World Series. As is customary, the scheduled starter arrived in the interview room after the game.

“Well, as Marvin Gaye said: ‘Let’s get it on,” said Morris, who pitched a 10-inning shutout to win the Series.

Or when the Jays arrived at Fulton-County Stadium in Atlanta in 1993.

The noisy room suddenly went silent when Morris turned up Garth Brooks’ haunting The Dance.

Signings

The first chunk of big money in scouting director Andrew Tinnish’s budget has gone to high-school righty Joe Musgrove, of El Cajon, Calif., chosen 46th overall and given a $500,000 US bonus ... The Jays have signed 17 picks, including Scarborough right-hander Leslie Williams, a 37th-round choice from Northeastern University; lefty Shane Davis of Belmont, Ont., 42nd, from Canisius College, and Thunder Bay’s Eric Brown, 50th, from the UBC Thunderbirds.

Six-figure men

Vancouver outfielder Chase Larsson, selected by the Atlanta Braves in the ninth round, was given a $100,000 bonus after leading the NCAA Division II in homers (29), RBIs (84), total bases (190) and slugging (1.000) at Cameron University ... Earlier, the Jays signed infielder Justin Atkinson of Surrey, B.C., (26th round), giving him a $100,000 bonus.

Remember when

The 1984 Ottawa-Nepean Canadians went 11-37 in the Quebec junior league under manager Don Campbell. That was their catcher — Peter Chiarelli, GM of the Boston Bruins — hoisting the Stanley Cup the other night. Meanwhile, right-hander Tom Langford went on to play linebacker for the Queen’s University Golden Gaels and was inducted into the Queen’s football Hall of Fame.

B.A. BORN AND BRED IN B.C.

There are exactly zero writers in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Same for the Hockey Hall of Fame. The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame crossed into a new world inducting Allan Simpson on Saturday.

The Kelowna, B.C., native founded Baseball America in his garage in White Rock, B.C., driving across the border to Blaine, Wash., for mailing, so it would have a U.S. post mark. He wrote, edited, designed and mailed the magazine in the early years.

Now, he’s in rubbing shoulders with Hall of Famers such as Fergie Jenkins, Larry Walker, Paul Quantrill and the like.

Growing up, The Sporting News was the baseball bible and billed itself accurately as such. Baseball America blew past TSN reaching 75,000 circulation. Simpson now writes for Perfect Game USA scouting service. Name any one of the 53 draft areas (50 states, plus Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C. and Canada) and he’ll tell you the top collegian, junior college or high school player.

HENKE THE BIGGER STORY

The phone rang in my New York hotel room on July 30, 1985.

“You’re in the wrong city,” said the voice. “The Expos fell another game off last night, the Mets have Dwight Gooden tonight, the better story is in Baltimore. The Jays called up that stud reliever.”

So, I flew to Baltimore where the Jays took three of four to go up 8.5 games on the New York Yankees, with a 6-foot-5, 215-pound Tom Henke getting two of the wins.

Henke had been dominant at triple-A Syracuse with a 2-1, an 0.88 ERA and 18 saves, striking out 60 in 51 innings.

Henke, who saved 217 games — plus five more in the 1992 post season — in seven-plus seasons with the Jays, was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys on Saturday.

How Henke wound up in Toronto is a tale worth re-telling. Since the Texas Rangers signed free agent Cliff Johnson, the Jays were allowed to make a pick in the compensation draft in 1985.

The Jays were set to select Donnie Moore from the Braves, but the Angels beat them to the punch, causing chaos at the draft table. Then, the Jays set their sights on right-hander Bill Cutshall of the Expos. But Montreal lost shortstop Argenis Salazar to St. Louis and the rules of the draft were that a team could not lose more than one player.

With the Jays brass uncertain what to do, scout Wilbur (Moose) Johnson said: “There’s this big tall reliever with Rangers, Henke.”

MAC'S TEARFUL BLAST

It will be impossible for the Blue Jays to duplicate what happened in their dugout a year ago Sunday ... Father’s Day, Sunday in Cincinnati.

A father’s son, John McDonald, a late-inning replacement, stepped to the plate in an eventual Jays loss the San Francisco Giants.

The game was five days after McDonald’s father, Jack, had died.

In one of their last conversations the father asked his son: “Hit your next home run for me.”

The infielder had hit only 13 homers in his first 12 seasons in the majors. But McDonald hit an 0-1 pitch from Jeremy Affeldt to left and pumped his fist as the ball disappeared into the bullpen.

It was an emotional reception in the dugout. The usually stoic Vernon Wells, told of going into the tunnel leading to the clubhouse along with Aaron Hill, Shaun Marcum and Casey Janssen and “crying on each other’s shoulders for a good 30 seconds.”

I remember it well. I was in the Coors Field press box in Denver watching Milwaukee closer John Axford close out a Brewers win over the Colorado Rockies.

“What’s wrong with you? Something in your eye?” asked FOX-TV’s Tracy Ringolsby, as I read Shi Davidi’s account of the Jays game from The Canadian Press.

Yup.


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