Bautista doesn't hold a Pirates grudge

Jose Bautista says he's not bitter that the Pirates gave up on him, eventually trading him to...

Jose Bautista says he's not bitter that the Pirates gave up on him, eventually trading him to Toronto. (Reuters)

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:20 PM ET

TORONTO - It would be easy for Jose Bautista to point a finger at the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and laugh, scoff even.

The Pirates gave up on him, got rid of him, however you want to put it. And for what? Robinzon Diaz, a catcher who hasn’t played in the Majors since 2009, who’s not even in the Pittsburgh organization anymore.

But Bautista isn’t wired that way.

The way the Blue Jays right-fielder/emergency third baseman sees it, the Pirates, whom the Jays played for the first time since 2008 on Tuesday night, thought enough of him to draft him (in the 20th round) back in 2000 and then traded for him again in 2004. (They lost him to the Baltimore Orioles in 2003 in the Rule 5 draft).

So, yeah, the Pirates made one of the worst trades ever when they shipped Bautista to Toronto in August 2008 for a player to be named later, who turned out to be Diaz. But there were circumstances behind the move — money, other veteran players who needed to play, etc.

So Bautista doesn’t look back at the trade as anything nefarious, nor does he see any reason to want to rub Pittsburgh’s nose in it.

“There’s no personal grudges or anything like that attached to it,” said Bautista, before taking ground balls at the Rogers Centre. “They went through some management changes and the people who made the decisions switched three or four times while I was there. And with different people, they get different ideas, so they’re entitled to do their own thing. And, for me, it worked out, so I have no grudges.”

Bautista said he never sat down with anyone in the Pirates front office to ask why it thought Diaz was a better option going forward than he was. Nor does he have any desire to do so.

“It’s one of those things you’d rather not know,” he said. “Because everything changed for the better for me once I got traded. I don’t want to say that I don’t care, but it’s just something I was never intrigued about.”

Bautista, who is having another excellent season, hitting .328 with 23 home runs going into last night’s game, did admit that facing the Pirates for the first time since the trade brought up certain emotions, none of which were bitterness.

“It’s a place that I’ve always held some love for,” he said. “I enjoyed my time there and the fans really treated me nice. So there are some feelings, but it was a couple of years ago, so hopefully we’ll get to beat them now, because that will help us in the standings.”

It’s easy for baseball people to mock the Pirates, in retrospect, for making such a one-sided deal, but nobody could have predicted that Bautista would have broken out the way he did in 2010. Even Bautista. The Santo Domingo, D.R. native always knew he had the ability to shine in the Majors, but he wasn’t sure when his breakthrough would come. Changes had to be made in Toronto before he began playing regularly and he also tinkered with his swing. And then everything came together. But it took a good year.

“I couldn’t tell you (when I got traded) that I was going to do something big or hit 50 homeruns, but I got traded out of there and I came here and got the proper instruction, and the timing of everything was perfect,” he said.

Who’s to say that Bautista would have had a major breakthrough if he had been traded to a different city, but he likely would be an even bigger star than he is now if he was plying his trade in one of baseball’s marquee centres, like New York, Boston or Chicago. But that doesn’t appear to bother the 30-year-old slugger who still leads all American League players in all-star voting, which is “a good surprise” to Bautista.

“Because I’m not one of those guys whose name is blasted all over TV all the time, and SportsCenter or MLB Network, or major papers in the United States, which everybody knows is the bigger markets for baseball,” he said, when asked why he is surprised.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

twitter @beezersun


Videos

Photos