Bautista hits No. 50; reflects on Pittsburgh
In what has become one of the biggest surprises of the 2010 season, former Pittsburgh third baseman Jose Bautista punctuated his breakout season by connecting for his 50th home run of the season for the Blue Jays on Thursday.
In doing so, Bautista became only the 26th player in Major League history to hit that many homers in a single season. What’s arguably most incredible about the whole feat is that Bautista entered the year never having hit more than 16 home runs in any of his previous big-league seasons.
The Pirates selected Bautista in the 20th round of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft and, after circling around to four other teams in 2004, he returned to Pittsburgh that summer.
Bautista earned significant playing time in 2006 before becoming the Pirates’ starting third baseman for the 2007 season. He began 2008 in that same role but eventually lost his spot to Andy LaRoche at the Trade Deadline. A demotion to the Minors followed, and the Pirates then dealt Bautista to the Blue Jays for Robinzon Diaz, a Minor League catcher that is no longer in the organization.
Shortly after hitting his milestone home run on Thursday, Bautista addressed that time he spent with the Pirates.
“To tell the truth, I don’t really know what caused me to fall out of favor in Pittsburgh,” Bautista said. “I was given an opportunity to play every day in 2007, and I didn’t have the best year. Coming into the next season, I was told that I was going to be the starting third baseman. Then, a lot of things changed after the second week of the season. I don’t think I was given a fair chance to be an everyday player and put up the type of numbers that they would’ve hoped. But, I feel pretty confident that I did an adequate job at it.
Bautista hit .242 with 12 home runs and 44 RBIs in 107 games with the Pirates in 2008. The previous year, he had batted .254 with 15 homers and 63 RBIs in 142 games.
“Given the inconsistency of the playing time I received, I think I had pretty good contributions to the team’s wins and I think I had pretty good production,” he said. “If I would’ve been given a chance to play on a daily basis that season — with more maturity and my second time around the division, knowing all the pitchers and all the other stuff like that — I really don’t know that I would’ve done better or not, but chances are that I would think that I would’ve done better.”
Bautista credited the Blue Jays for giving him the second chance he needed and for believing in his ability. He noted how a change in his approach and swing under Toronto’s watch led him to this type of production.
Bautista was also asked if he hoped anyone in the Pirates’ front office staff was watching what he accomplished on Thursday.
“No,” he answered. “I don’t hold grudges.”
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