DUNEDIN, FLA. - Jose Bautista is seated at his locker in Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.
Just as the Blue Jays right-fielder was a year ago.
And as he has been each spring since 2009 after he was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in August of 2008.
“Last year taught us a good lesson — expectations are pretty much irrelevant,” said Bautista.
It’s the year after the Jays added Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson to their rotation, shortstop Jose Reyes and acclaimed super utility man Emilio Bonifacio from the Florida Marlins, picked up R.A. Dickey and Josh Thole from the New York Mets and signed free agents Melky Cabrera and Maicer Izturis.
The Blue Jays had the best talent in the American League East.
Scouts and general managers told us so.
And so did players both with other teams and inside the same clubhouse in the right field.
Then the Jays went out and won 74 games.
Now Johnson is gone to the San Diego Padres, Bonifaccio was moved to the Kansas City Royals last season and is now in camp with the Chicago Cubs.
Dickey and Buehrle form two spots of the 2014 rotation, Izturis returns in a backup role, Thole is battling Erik Kratz to be Dickey’s personal catcher and Cabrera is in better health showing range in left field, even starting two games in centre.
How much has Cabrera improved?
“He hasn’t improved,” Bautista says sternly.