Bautista filling in nicely for Blue Jays

Bautista filling in nicely for Jays

TORONTO -- Jose Bautista is trying to take advantage of an opportunity while it lasts. As the 2009 season nears a close for the Blue Jays, the utility man has found himself on the field more often, presenting a chance to show he can handle a more prominent role next year.

The Blue Jays are currently without shortstop and leadoff man Marco Scutaro, who is sidelined with a right heel injury, and the club let right fielder Alex Rios go to the White Sox in a waiver claim midway through August. That combination has created a surge in playing time for Bautista, and he has been taking advantage.

"He's come out and played well for us," said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston.

Heading into a three-game road series against the Red Sox, beginning on Monday at Fenway Park, Bautista has hit at a .292 (21-for-72) clip over his last 21 games. Over that stretch, he has belted five of the eight home runs he's launched this season and driven in 11 of his 30 RBIs in 2009. Bautista also has four doubles and 15 runs scored during his recent run.

In the field, Bautista has proved to be more than an adequate outfielder. His 11 outfield assists are the third-highest total in the American League. The eight assists Bautista has from left field are the fourth-highest total in baseball, while his 63 total chances at that position rank 50th overall. Bautista has played all three outfield spots this year and has also manned third base.

Considering the fact that the 28-year-old Bautista -- signed for $2.4 million this season -- is headed for arbitration this winter, he has picked a good time to get hot. More than that, Bautista knows his late-season push might be a way to convince the Blue Jays to hand him more playing time throughout next season.

"I'm just going out there trying to help the team get some wins," Bautista said. "I know if I do good it's going to help my chances for next year, so I'm kind of killing two birds with one stone."

As things currently stand, Gaston is not sure how Bautista fits within the 2010 picture.

"It just depends on what we have here, who's back and who's not," Gaston said.

Bautista said he has worked hard on his hitting mechanics, especially getting his lead foot down on time in order to help his rhythm in the batter's box.

"Getting ready on time has been my biggest hurdle hitting-wise my whole career," Bautista said. "If I can continue to do it the way I've been doing it the last month, I think I can improve."

More than anything, though, the increased time on the field has aided Bautista's performance.

"You hit the nail on the head right there," Bautista said. "With consistency in playing time, there's more consistency in the results. It's something that has definitely been welcome."

Pitching matchup
TOR: RHP Scott Richmond (7-10, 5.32 ERA)
Richmond has gone 1-6 with a 7.87 ERA in his past 10 starts for the Jays.

BOS: RHP Michael Bowden (0-0, 7.84 ERA)
Bowden fills in for Josh Beckett to make his first big league start of the season after allowing nine earned runs in 10 1/3 innings over six relief appearances.

Bird feed
Designated hitter Adam Lind has recorded at least one hit in 14 of his last 19 games. ... Second baseman Aaron Hill went 0-for-3 on Sunday to bring an end to his 10-game hitting streak. ... Toronto ended the home portion of its 2009 schedule with a 44-37 record, winning 11 of its final 16 games at Rogers Centre. With a 6-1 record on its final homestand, the Jays snapped a string of six consecutive losing homestands. ... Lind currently ranks sixth on the club's all-time single-season list with 46 doubles this year. ... The Blue Jays have gone 28-47 on the road this season with an 0-6 record at Boston's Fenway Park. Toronto is 4-11 against Boston, guaranteeing its first losing record against the Red Sox in a season series since 2004. ... Scutaro and left-hander Scott Downs (right hamstring) remain day-to-day with their respective injuries.

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On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• FAN 590

Up next
• Tuesday: Blue Jays (Ricky Romero, 12-9, 4.28) at Red Sox (Clay Buchholz, 7-3, 3.21), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Blue Jays (Roy Halladay, 16-10, 2.90) at Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 11-4, 4.33), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Off-day

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.