06/04/10 11:56 PM ET
Blue Jays tickled by Bautista's breakthrough
By James Hall / MLB.com
That being said however, there is one player in Toronto in particular that Gaston has a heightened level of respect for -- outfielder Jose Bautista.
Bautista, who doubled and homered twice off former Blue Jays starter, now Yankee, A.J Burnett, in Toronto's 6-1 win Friday at Rogers Centre, continues to lead all of Major League Baseball with 18 home runs. While it took Bautista 433 at-bats over 2008-09 to hit 18 home runs, this time around the right fielder needed all of 193 at-bats, setting his single-season high in home runs. Entering Friday's contest, Bautista ranked in the top 10 in the American League in nearly every offensive category.
Bautista attributes his new-found success to old-fashioned hard work.
"I've never done it as consistently," said Bautista of his torrid home run pace, "but then again I never had the approach I have now. I never got ready as I do now [and] especially since last September, I've just been really good about getting ready on time.
"These are uncharted waters for me."
Adding to Gaston's allure, the onetime afterthought -- acquired from the Pirates for catcher Robinzon Diaz -- continues to put his team first in spite of the mounting individual achievements.
"He will play anywhere you ask him to play," Gaston said. "He'll hit anywhere in the lineup. You've seen that. From first to third to fourth, all the way down to sixth and seventh."
What Gaston failed to mention is that Bautista is equally as unselfish on both sides of diamond, splitting time between third base (27 starts) and right field (29), while occasionally playing some first base.
Blue Jays starting pitcher Brett Cecil, who was the beneficiary of Bautista's two long balls on Friday, couldn't say enough good things about the Blue Jays' diamond in the ruff.
"What can you say about him?" Cecil said. "He's just unbelievable. He takes a lot of pride in what he does. He hits the ball hard. He's barreling balls up and fortunately for us, most of them are going out of the park."
Current performance aside, Gaston believes Bautista is a winner -- on and off the field.
"We have all good guys here," Gaston said. "We don't really have any bad people here, but he's one of the great guys on this club as far as the way he carries himself.
"He's just a pleasure to manage."
James Hall is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.