Toronto Blue Jays all-star slugger Jose Bautista said he’s feeling much better after his right-shoulder injury, but he hasn’t returned to the form needed to resume defensive duty.
Bautista injured his shoulder as he tried to throw out Baltimore Orioles outfielder Delmon Young at first base in a tense home game on April 21. The right-fielder missed five games and has been limited to designated-hitter duty since April 27.
“I’m not where I want to be yet, of course. I’m not at the point where I can start throwing yet,” Bautista said Wednesday at a launch event for his new denim line with Silver Jeans Co.
“It’s unfortunate that the injury that I sustained happened, but it’s part of playing.”
The Blue Jays (13-15) were in last place in the American League East division heading into the finale of a three-game series against the New York Yankees.
Bautista took the night off Tuesday, but entered the game in the ninth inning as a pinch-hitter. He returned to the starting lineup as the designated hitter for Wednesday night’s rubber game.
Toronto manager John Gibbons said Bautista may stay in the DH spot indefinitely until he’s ready to play in the outfield. Speaking at his pre-game media availability, Gibbons added there was no structural damage to Bautista’s shoulder.
“(The recovery) is taking a little bit longer than I thought,” he said. “But he said he’s making progress.”
Toronto entered play leading the major leagues in runs scored (150) and were sixth overall with 33 home runs. But it’s been a tough start to the season for the pitching staff, which was ranked 29th out of 30 teams with a 4.97 earned-run average.
“The team is doing so far … well. We could be doing better,” said Bautista, who is hitting .205 with five home runs and 17 runs batted in.
“I think we have a lot more to give than what we’re showing so far. It’s still early … and we still have a lot of time to make up for those few losses that we feel like we should of won.”
The Blue Jays haven’t made the playoffs since winning a second straight World Series title in 1993, and Bautista said he is aware of the fans’ desire for a winner in Toronto.
“There’s always pressure. We feel it,” he said. “The fans want to have a winner … and we want to be the ones that provide that. So, we’re definitely working hard and we show up every day and we give it all the effort in order to get those wins.
“Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as an individual sport. It has to be a group effort and a co-ordinated effort. So, sometimes you have to play for a few weeks before you kind of jell all together. So hopefully that’s what happens with us, and we’ll be at the top of the standings at the end of the season and we’ll go the playoffs.”
The Blue Jays have been plagued by injury woes since spring training.
Starting pitcher Marcus Stroman was sidelined for the season after surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Shortstop Jose Reyes has been on the 15-day disabled list since April 28 with a cracked rib.
Backup catcher Dioner Navarro (strained hamstring) and infielder Maicer Izturis (groin) are also on the DL while outfielder Michael Saunders is trying to regain his form after undergoing knee surgery during spring training.
Bautista expressed optimism that the return of injured and demoted players — like starting pitcher Daniel Norris — as well as an increase in offensive production will make a difference down the stretch.
“I’m not doing what I’m normally doing. Edwin (Encarnacion) is not doing what he’s normally doing. Russell Martin has just started to pick it up.
“Once everybody is clicking together, we’re going to have a lot of fun.”
The Jays are off Thursday and will continue their six-game homestand with a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox beginning Friday.
With files from Canadian Press sports reporter Gregory Strong.
Follow @lauren_larose and @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.
Lauren La Rose, The Canadian Press