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Kevin Gray's On Baseball: Bautista, Lind in Fisher Cats' lineup Thursday night
Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) warms up before an April game against the Boston Red Sox at the Rogers Centre. (Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE)
RAINED OUT on a rehab assignment in Dunedin, Fla., on Wednesday, Jose Bautista and Adam Lind packed their bags for Manchester. This is where major leaguers test their body and timing before returning to The Show this season.
Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Sweeney and Brandon Morrow all made rehab stints at Double-A New Hampshire.
Now the Fisher Cats are preparing to host Bautista, baseball's two-time reigning home run champion, and old friend Lind, a former Eastern League MVP. Bautista, returning from a wrist injury, is expected to play at least one game with New Hampshire before rejoining the Blue Jays. Lind (back injury) will also play for the Fisher Cats on a rehab assignment Thursday night, according to Blue Jays manager John Farrell.
Toronto's meat-of-the-order hitters will take on the New Britain Rock Cats (6:35 p.m.) to open the final homestand of the season at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. Bautista and Lind have no set timetable on when they'll return to the majors, though Bautista, according to some published reports, is scheduled to be activated from the 15-day disabled list and rejoin the Blue Jays on Friday. But that depends on how his left wrist feels Friday morning.
“I think, for both guys, just the fact that they're back on the field, they're going to need some at-bats to gain some overall comfort, additional confidence and, obviously, timing at the plate,” Farrell said at MLB.com. “We're making progress in those two areas.”
Bautista, who joined baseball's 50-Homer Club in 2010, suffered a sprained wrist while taking a hack against the Yankees on July 16. The former Pirates outfielder has belted 124 home runs since a breakout 2010 campaign in which he had 54 homers and 124 RBIs.
In 2008, the Blue Jays acquired Bautista in a trade for a player to be named later: then-Fisher Cats catcher Robinzon Diaz. Bautista refined his swing with Toronto, developing a shorter-to-the-ball approach, and transformed into one of the most feared hitters in baseball's post-juice era.
“I was the same guy (in 2008), confident in my ability, looking for an opportunity to play,” said Bautista in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader during spring training. “If anything, that's what has changed. At the same time, I had a hitting approach that didn't fit in at the organization with the Pirates. For me, it was a big break and a big relief when I got traded, not because I wanted to leave because I didn't, but when I got here, I found out their hitting philosophy adjusted to my style of play a lot more. They let me go out there and let my ability take over, which was great for my career. They gave me the confidence and opportunity.”
The 31-year-old Bautista, a three-time All-Star, will be making his second appearance in a rehab game for the Blue Jays. On Monday, he went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and walk while playing for the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays.
Lind was the Eastern League's Most Valuable Player in 2006, batting .310 with 24 doubles, 19 homers and 71 RBIs. At the time of his promotion to Triple-A, Lind was threatening to become the fifth player in Eastern League history to win the Triple Crown.
Lind, a career .264 hitter in the majors, made a name for himself in 2009. The lefty was the American League's top designated hitter that season, batting .305 with 35 homers and 114 RBIs.
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Staff writer Kevin Gray covers pro baseball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @graymatter11.