Bautista is baseball's Mr. All-Star

Blue Jays Jose Bautista launches one of his 33 home runs this season against the Cleveland Indians...

Blue Jays Jose Bautista launches one of his 33 home runs this season against the Cleveland Indians on Saturday. (GETTY IMAGES)

Bob Elliott, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:59 PM ET

PHOENIX — Baseball Prospectus projected Jose Bautista would hit .242 with 33 homers this season.

Sports Illustrated’s preview issue predicted Bautista would hit .250 with 25 homers.

Of course, we nailed it, writing no way the Blue Jay would hit 54 homers again, but the Jays would be very happy with 25-to-30 homers.

Now, Bautista, the leading vote getter, heads into Tuesday’s annual all-star game with a .334 average, 31 homers, 65 RBIs and a 1.170 OPS ... despite missing eight games.

He’s on a pace to hit 55 homers.

A year ago at the all-star break Bautista had 24 homers.

“I didn’t expect to hit 54 home runs last year,” Bautista told writers Monday on all-star workout day. “I didn’t read a lot of that in the spring. The thing is I felt I’ve kept things in focus: working on my timing.

“Deviating from that and worrying about how many homers I’m going to hit would send me right off track.”

Suffice to say the man’s talents have yet to be harnessed.

He’s made throws from right field like Ellis Valentine or Jesse Barfield in their prime.

Then, the Jays flip him to third base and he looks like Clete Boyer or Scott Rolen making diving stops into foul ground, getting up to throw runners out at first.

A year ago Tuesday he was hitting .240.

The scoreboard in centre Tuesday night will show an average bettered by almost .100 points at .334.

Amazing.

Grace.

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw is looking forward to facing Bautista.

“To me, he’s been unbelievable. I’ve never seen him play in person, just highlights of him,” Kershaw told reporters. “It seems like he’s playing with a beach ball up there. Maybe I’ll get to face him.

“I don’t know if it’s because I’m competitive or it’s curiosity. I don’t know a whole lot about him, but he is a great player.”

Executives of the Pittsburgh Pirates (where Bautista was for 400 games), the Baltimore Orioles (16), Kansas City Royals (13) and Tampa Bay Rays (12) are all scratching their heads, asking “how did we ever let this guy get away?”

Pirates broadcaster Lanny Frattare hung the nickname “Joey Bats” on Bautista and it has blossomed this year with his MLB commercial as Joey Bats, a Godfather-like figure who rubs out a baseball he finds seated at his table.

“People seem to enjoy the nickname,” Bautista said. “Basically, coming to Toronto, things changed in September of 2008. They told me to go out and play. Relax. I didn’t have to get 3-to-4 hits every day to stay in the lineup, like every other place I’d been.”

Seated at a table underneath a sign with his name on it, Bautista was asked if he was going to take his sign home?

“Well, I did last year, put it in my suitcase,” Bautista said. “I opened the suitcase and the sign was beat up so I threw it out. The only way I’ll take it home is if someone carries it.”

Bautista said the all-star game was being “played for a reason.”

“I’m not saying our club is out of it (his Jays are two games under .500), but we have to try to win home-field advantage for our league,” Bautista said. “Being in Toronto sometimes we don’t get the media coverage all the other cities do.”

Twenty feet away from Bautista sat lefty Ricky Romero, the other Jay on the AL roster.

How would he pitch Bautista if he had to face him?

“I think I’d pitch him away, away, away,” Romero said. “If I came in on his hands I know what would happen. He’s tough when he gets a ball to pull. I’ve seen him do it too often.”

The most amazing thing Romero has seen his teammate do?

“This year when we went to Minnesota in May,” Romero said. “He homered to deep left first time up, hit a line drive to left and then went the other way hitting a ball out to right centre.”

Amazing.

 

 


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