Scuffling Bautista finds ways to contribute

Scuffling Bautista finds ways to contribute

Scuffling Bautista finds ways to contribute
KANSAS CITY -- Jose Bautista's slow start? Looking closely at the stats, it might not be as slow as some think.

Bautista has led the American League in home runs in each of the past two seasons, driving in more than 100 runs both years. But so far in 2012, Bautista has found base hits and home runs to be elusive. He's hitting just .214 through the season's first 16 games, and his home run in Monday's 4-1 win over the Royals was only his third of the season.

"This is a young season. This guy's going to do it over and over for us," second baseman Kelly Johnson said after the win. "Nice to see it, and I think as he gets going, gets some confidence going, we're going to do the same, and we're going to be playing some good baseball."

Bautista is getting on base at a .386 clip, ranking in the top 15 in the AL entering play on Monday. He's walked 14 times, including thrice in Sunday's win over the Kansas City Royals. Bautista did get one hit on Sunday, an RBI single to give the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning.

Blue Jays manager John Farrell said after Sunday's game that Bautista's performance was a good sign for a player who's struggled to get hits in the early going.

"A very good sign," Farrell said. "His timing has been a little hit and miss through the first 15 games, but yesterday it was much more like what we've come to know of Jose. When he is seeing the ball well, he'll take those borderline pitches that end up being balls, and that was the case yesterday."

Before Monday's game, Bautista said that even with the hits not falling, he can still help the team.

"It does help. I'm getting on base, trying to let somebody else drive me in," Bautista said. "Trying to score runs instead of driving in runs when I'm not swinging well is definitely a good way to contribute."

Farrell added Sunday that getting on base via the walk is nothing new for his right fielder, and it was that patience at the plate that led to his strong game.

"The last couple years, he's walked more than he's struck out," Farrell said. "I thought he had very good at-bats. Seeing the ball exceptionally well. Line-drive base hit, line drive off the pitcher's arm. But when he's seeing the ball well, he doesn't chase out of the zone, and that was the case."