Bautista shows how well he's seeing the ball

Mammoth homer aside, Blue Jays slugger pleased with spring progression

Bautista shows how well he's seeing the ball

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jose Bautista made sure his spring got off to a quick start Wednesday by crushing a home run against the Phillies during his first at-bat of the Grapefruit League season.

Toronto's right fielder got ahead in the count 2-0, and then sent a pitch from Roberto Hernandez over the wall in left field in the first inning of a 4-3, rain-shortened win. The ball went so far that it actually went past a picnic area at Bright House Field and left the ballpark.

Results don't mean much at this time of the year, but the biggest positive is that Bautista says he's seeing the ball really well out of the pitcher's hand this spring, even though there still hasn't been a lot of reps.

"It felt pretty good, I can't deny that," said Bautista, who also walked and scored two runs. "More importantly, I felt like I was seeing the ball great. It didn't really feel like I haven't been playing for awhile. So that's a positive."

Bautista missed the end of last season with a deep bone bruise in his hip. It was just one in a long list of injuries the Blue Jays had to endure last season that -- at least partially -- played a role in a disappointing year.

The core group of Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus were in the lineup at the same time on just eight occasions all year. Lind was the only one of that group to avoid the disabled list, and an offense that was supposed to be one of the best in the league often had trouble scoring runs.

That's why more than anything this spring, the focus of camp is keeping everyone healthy and having them peak at the right time.

"The fact that everyone is healthy and on the field is what matters," Bautista said. "Hopefully we can play 162 [games] together. It's a pretty high goal, but the most amount of games that each guy can play, hopefully we can get everybody out there for that amount of games and get to maximize and feed off each other and benefit from having a good hitter in front or behind.

"Our lineup is pretty deep one through nine, so I think everybody is going to get to enjoy that feeling if everybody is healthy."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.