TORONTO – Jose Bautista struck an optimistic tone following Sunday's game in Cincinnati, speculating his injured left hamstring wouldn't keep him out of action for too long.
An MRI on Monday seemed to confirm Bautista's assumption. A mild, or grade one, hamstring strain and Bautista is day-to-day.
"That's what my assumption is but I've got to see how my body responds," said Bautista. "At least for me heals the same to a headache or, let's say a hamstring strain. I guess every situation is different. We'll see how I feel tomorrow. I don't want to say I'll be ready in two days or three days and I don't know because I don't."
"I think we lucked out there," said manager John Gibbons.
Bautista's confident he won't require a trip to the disabled list.
"There's a really good chance that I can avoid it, yes," he said.
In fact, he didn't rule out an appearance at some point in the series with the Yankees, which concludes on Wednesday night.
"There's definitely a chance," said Bautista. "I'm not saying a start but you never know, a pinch hit at-bat here or there, that's a possibility."
It was a rough finale to a tough 10-game road trip on which the Blue Jays went 3-7. Bautista left Sunday's game in the third, one inning after Brett Lawrie was hit on the hand by a Johnny Cueto fastball, fracturing his right index finger in the process.
Bautista felt a pull as he charged down the first base line, beating out a sacrifice bunt. He remained in the game until two batters later when he advanced to second on a Colby Rasmus single.
The problem with a muscle pull or strain is that a player can feel relatively normal walking and doing normal daily activities. It's when the muscle is put through the rigour of exercises and baseball activities that a player finds out the degree to which he's healthy or unhealthy.
Recall that Colby Rasmus was hopeful of avoiding the disabled list when he felt tightness in his hamstring. Rasmus did end up on the DL, on May 13, and didn't return until June 18. He missed 33 games and he suffered a setback about halfway through when the muscle grabbed as he was running sprints in the Rogers Centre outfield.
The Blue Jays had lost 11 of 15 games entering Monday night's play. Gibbons said he expected Bautista would be honest regarding the status of his hamstring. Bautista promised he wouldn't fudge facts in an effort to get back into the lineup too soon.
"If I feel like I'm going to make it worse by starting to play again, I'll be doing the team and myself a disservice," said Bautista. "I've got to know that I'm at least not going to make it worse. If my recovery becomes slower or I still have to deal with some pain point, I can handle that but if there's an increased chance of me making it worse, no, I can't do that."
The club recalled outfielders Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar, moves facilitated by the disabling of Lawrie and the optioning of catcher Erik Kratz to Triple-A Buffalo. Gose and Pillar are expected to platoon in rightfield for as long as Bautista is out, something they did in centrefield in the absence of Rasmus.
Adam Lind returned to the starting lineup on Monday night. He had three pinch-hit appearances since suffering a bruised foot on June 14 in Baltimore. Pressed into action due to Bautista's and Lawrie's absences, Lind admitted he's not yet returned to full health.
"They said a while, maybe three weeks," said Lind. "If I could just sit around and chill, it would probably less time. I haven't played but I've still been on it, in spikes, not totally resting it but that's part of the job I signed up for."
The Road Ahead
Beginning with Monday's tilt against the Yankees, Toronto has 19 games remaining before the All-Star Break. The first nine are at home; three with New York, four against Chicago and two versus Milwaukee.
The Jays then embark on a taxing 10-game road trip, both in terms of miles traveled and quality of opponents. The club will visit Oakland for four games, Anaheim for three and Tampa Bay for three.
After an otherworldly May in which the Jays went 21-9, the club has stumbled to a 9-11 mark in June. The doubting segment of the fanbase has become increasingly vocal, voicing opinions on radio call-in shows and on social media. Bautista wasn't pleased to hear it and offered a matter of fact response.
"Well, good for them," said Bautista. "I don't have to defend ourselves. If they want to root for the Yankees or the Red Sox, be my guest. They shouldn't be Jays' fans if that's how they feel. That's my opinion."