Bautista arrives in Toronto
New Blue Jay happy to be on winning team; Wilkerson to DL
TORONTO -- Jose Bautista felt a sense of relief when he learned that the Pirates had traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays. An organizational change was precisely what the third baseman had hoped for after losing his job in Pittsburgh earlier this month.
On Friday, Bautista arrived at Rogers Centre and was more than ready to try on his Blue Jays uniform, putting his tour with the Pirates quickly in the past. Declining to delve into specifics, Bautista said his relationship had soured with Pittsburgh manager John Russell.
"For some reason, it just wasn't a good fit for me," Bautista said. "Me and the manager and maybe the people that kept a direct relationship in the front office with him just couldn't see eye to eye on a couple things. It's just how the ball rolls sometimes."
Bautista noted that he discussed the possibility of being dealt with the Pirates after learning he was being optioned to the Minor Leagues on Aug. 13. Such an opportunity presented itself when Toronto claimed Bautista off waivers and then worked out a trade to acquire him on Thursday, agreeing to send a player to be named later to Pittsburgh.
In order to clear room on the active roster for Bautista, the Blue Jays placed seldom-used outfielder Brad Wilkerson on the 15-day disabled list with back spasms. Wilkerson has also been dealing with a left shoulder issue for the better part of the past two months and will have his arm examined while he's sidelined.
"Along with him having a little back problem," Toronto manager Cito Gaston said, "as far as muscle spasms and things like that, his arm has been bothering him, too. But the muscle spasms are the ones that are keeping him out of the lineup."
With Wilkerson temporarily out of the picture, Gaston indicated that he wouldn't hesitate to use Bautista in the outfield. Bautista said he is comfortable playing any of the three outfield spots, though most of his experience over the past two seasons is as a third baseman. Toronto third baseman Scott Rolen is currently on the DL with a fatigued left shoulder.
"Right now, Rolen is hurt," Bautista said. "He'll be back and it's his position. I've been told that specifically, but I'll step in and play there until he comes back, and then play different outfield positions. I can move around and they're going to use me like they can."
In 107 games with the Pirates this season, the 27-year-old Bautista hit .242 with 12 home runs and 44 RBIs. He began the season as Pittsburgh's starting third baseman, as he did in 2007, but he moved in and out of that role throughout the year. On July 31, Bautista lost his job altogether when the Pirates acquired Andy LaRoche in a three-team trade.
After spending roughly two weeks on the bench, Bautista -- under contract for $1.8 million this year -- was sent down to Triple-A Indianapolis. Bautista said that joining the Jays, who entered Friday seven games back of the top slot in the American League Wild Card standings, is a welcome change of pace.
"I'm glad to be on a winning team," Bautista said. "It's been up and down for the last five years and I've never been on a winning team. So, it's going to be a great atmosphere for me to be in and, hopefully, I can contribute to keep getting more wins and closer to that playoff spot."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.