Bautista searching for answers to slump
After fast start, slugger mired in two-week slide at the plate
TORONTO -- Jose Bautista took advantage of his chance to impress the man responsible for putting the final touches on the American League All-Star team. With Yankees manager Joe Girardi in the opposing dugout, the Blue Jays outfielder put on a show.
In the second inning, Bautista drilled a pitch from New York's A.J. Burnett deep to left field, sending the baseball bouncing off the facing of the third deck at Rogers Centre. Two innings later, Bautista crushed another Burnett offering to nearly the exact same spot.
That was nearly two weeks ago.
Since that offensive outburst on June 4 in Toronto, Bautista has slipped into a prolonged slumber in the batter's box. After bursting out of the gates this season as one of baseball's early surprises, the versatile utility man has regressed to the point where it is easy to wonder which performance represents the real Bautista.
He is quick to note that more than three months of games remain.
"I'm being inconsistent with getting ready on time," Bautista said. "I've been having a little bit of trouble going back to that. It's a long season. I didn't expect to do great all season long, but, that being said, I also have to get back to swinging the bat good as soon as possible."
For Bautista, getting ready on time means planting his lead foot early, allowing for a well-timed load with his hands and an ability to recognize pitches before it is too late. When everything is in sync, Bautista is able to better execute the type of approach he wants at the plate, focusing on taking advantage of fastballs.
Mechanically and mentally, Bautista has enjoyed strong results, especially power-wise, dating back to late last season. Under the tutelage of manager Cito Gaston and hitting coach Dwayne Murphy, Bautista found a new comfort level at the plate and began to thrive wherever he was slotted within the lineup.
"The ball feels like it's coming faster than what it really is," Bautista said. "Earlier in the year, I would see guys throwing 95 [mph] and it felt like they were throwing 90. Now, I see guys throwing 85 and it feels like they're throwing 95.
"I'm rushing everything right now. My load is too quick. My head's moving. My front side is flying open. Everything is just trying to catch up basically."
That, and Bautista said pitchers are attacking him differently.
"I'm seeing a lot more breaking balls and a lot more off-speed stuff," Bautista said. "But, it's an adjustment that I'm going to have to make to be successful all year. If I'm being consistent, like I've been saying all year, with getting ready on time, I think I can still handle the difference in speed.
"When I'm not getting ready early, like right now, it's really hard to pick out a fastball or a breaking ball. I'm not seeing the ball the best right now and that's why, just because I'm not ready on time."
As of Wednesday, Bautista still ranked second in the Majors with 18 home runs, which is already a career best in one season for the 29-year-old. Over his past 10 games, though, Bautista has hit just .056 (2-for-36) with a pair of singles and no RBIs. That comes after a stretch of 21 games during which he hit .354 with 11 homers and 22 RBIs.
Gaston was quick to note that Bautista started in each of Toronto's first 66 games this year. Beyond that, Bautista has manned four positions (right field, third base, center field and first base) and hit out of every spot in the lineup except eighth or ninth. Along the way, Bautista's season average has dropped to .227.
On Wednesday, Bautista finally received a day off. Combine that with the team's off-day on Thursday, and he has two days to try to clear his head before the upcoming weekend series against the Giants.
"I think he might be getting a little bit tired. I'm not sure," Gaston said. "He's played everywhere and done everything he could for us. You can be physically tired in this game, but a lot of times people don't know the mental tiredness that you go through, too.
"It's just as bad as being physically tired. It's tough. This is a tough grind."
Bautista admitted that his slump has been somewhat mentally draining.
"I think everybody goes through it," he said. "You experience a little failure, and all of a sudden you let your confidence level go down a little bit. You start thinking if it might be something physical, your hands or you're getting your foot down late or something like that.
"It's just a matter of getting back to basics and making it simple again -- seeing the ball and hitting it."
And maybe hitting it a long way, continuing to state his case for a spot on the All-Star team.
"Bautista had a chance," Gaston said. "And he still might."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.