TORONTO – Jose Bautista missed his fourth consecutive game with an injured left hamstring when the Blue Jays took the field against the White Sox on Thursday night.
He confirmed he wouldn't be able to play on Friday night either. But Bautista is progressing.
“Better,” he said. “That is the best way I can describe it. It feels better than when it happened, better than the day after. So there's been a lot of progress. But I'm obviously not ready to play, not today.”
The first tests of Bautista's hamstring were passed on Monday and Tuesday.
“Just to make sure I didn't need to go on the DL,” he said.
The next test will be conducted on Saturday morning, hours before the third game of this four-game series. Bautista will run a series of sprints and, if his leg holds up, he'll be available to at least pinch hit on the weekend.
The Jays haven't faced a left-handed starting pitcher since the Cardinals' Jaime Garcia on June 8, a span of 17 games. Chicago will send three left-handers to the mound from Friday to Sunday, including most difficult challenges on Saturday (ace Chris Sale: 6-1, 2.27 ERA) and Sunday (Jose Quintana: 4-7, 3.69 ERA).
Bautista's right-handed power bat would be especially welcomed. He admitted it can be difficult to remain patient as the hamstring heals.
“It's tough because I don't want to handcuff the team by not being available,” said Bautista. “But at the same time I don't think I need the extra week to come back and, after two weeks, you normally would have to get some at-bats somewhere. I just don't want to go through that process because I don't feel like I need it.”
In 77 games this season, Bautista is hitting .305/.433/.526 with 15 home runs and 59 walks to 48 strikeouts. He is baseball's leader in on-base percentage (.433) and bases-on-balls. Defensively, Bautista's eight outfield assists place him in a three-way tie for second.
BAUTISTA CALLS FOR SUPPORT FOR ENCARNACION
Edwin Encarnacion entered Thursday's action with 24 home runs, making him the major league co-leader with Baltimore's Nelson Cruz.
He is listed as a designated hitter on the All-Star fan voting ballot and currently sits fourth at the position behind Cruz, Boston's David Ortiz and Victor Martinez of the Tigers.
Jose Bautista isn't happy about it. If the fans don't put Encarnacion into the game, Bautista expects the American League manager will. That man: former Jays skipper John Farrell.
“How could you not pick the guy who is leading the league in home runs and RBIs?” asked Bautista. “I'm surprised still that the fans haven't come out and supported him better and he's not leading the votes for his position, but you can't control that as much as you can control a manager picking a player.”
Encarnacion captured the imagination of Toronto fans and baseball in general with his 16-home run May.
“I think, either way he should make the team,” said Bautista. “It would be a huge disappointment and let-down to all fans if you don't have a guy like Edwin dressed up for that game. No matter if it's the other players or the manager picking him.”
Bautista is the captain of the American League team for the annual Home Run Derby, which is held the night before the All-Star Game.
Players who take part in the derby don't have to be participants in the game. However, Encarnacion has already told Bautista he wants no part of the derby. Bautista is actively recruiting potential derby-mates. He plans to speak to Chicago's rookie slugger, Jose Abreu (23 home runs) at some point this weekend.
“I don't want to pick guys that don't want to do it and I don't want to force guys into doing it if they don't really feel like it, if they're uncomfortable or they have some health issues,” said Bautista. “I want to win this, so I'm not going to pick anybody who is going to be reserved in any way when they go and pick up a bat.”
TOLLESON'S VISION IMPROVING
Steve Tolleson replaced Juan Francisco at third base in the seventh inning of Thursday's game against the White Sox, his first action on the homestand. He began suffering from dryness of the eyes and blurred vision on the last road trip.
Tolleson made a Thursday visit to a cornea specialist, his fourth trip to an eye doctor in as many days, and came away with the diagnosis of an allergic reaction to contact lenses.