TAMPA, Fla. — On the field, Jose Bautista’s spring debut passed without incident. Off of the field it was anything but quiet.
Hours after Goose Gossage ripped Bautista for "acting like a fool," the 35-year-old right fielder offered evidence to the contrary with a calm, measured response.
“He’s entitled to his opinion," Bautista said. “I don’t agree with him whatsoever, but I’m not going to try to pick fights with people. They say what’s on their mind. If he had a reason to believe that, I would love to hear that, but I’ve never talked to him. I don’t know him.
“Whatever reason or agenda he’s on is fine with me. I’m not going to start picking a fight, let alone with a Hall of Famer," Bautista said.
Before the game, Gossage ripped Bautista and his Toronto Blue Jays teammates.
“Bautista is a f—ing disgrace to the game,” Gossage told ESPN. “He’s embarrassing to all the Latin players, whoever played before him. Throwing his bat and acting like a fool, like all those guys in Toronto."
Bautista, who popped up, struck out and was hit by a pitch Thursday, says he has no intention of contacting Gossage to clarify the situation.
“I don’t think it’s my job to reach out to him," Bautista said. “I’m just going about my work, showing up here to do my job every single day and help this team win ball games.”
Bautista may be taking the high road with Gossage, but he made it clear that he believes there’s a place for emotion in baseball. He agrees when Bryce Harper says baseball’s code can be tired and overly restrictive at times. There’s a place for emotion in MLB.
“I think it should play a role in every sport — actually in everything that you do in life," he said. “It’s kind of hard to just go about everything, especially exciting things, and just sit there with a poker face like nothing’s happening. I don’t even think that’s in human nature.
“You’re supposed to react," Bautista continued. “You’re supposed to be emotional. That’s how you stay in tune with being a human. If not you turn into something else. You do it enough you’ll become numb to all the different sensations you’re supposed to be feeling.
“Some people are very good at keeping it down and others are more in tune with that and use that energy to propel them, get to a higher level of focus and competition. I’m like that and I’m sure Bryce is like that. I think he’s 100 per cent right with his comments."
Gossage further undermined his credibility by asserting that nerds are ruining baseball, a $9 billion industry. The 64-year-old Hall of Famer’s comments may have shock value, but there’s little to be gained in taking them seriously or responding publicly if you’re Bautista.
Instead, his focus will turn to the field. The Blue Jays intend to rest Bautista Friday when they face knuckleballer Steven Wright, but he was slated to play before the Boston Red Sox decided to start Wright. From here on Bautista will see plenty of action — likely more than enough to get the 30-40 at-bats he requires.
It’s a good thing for the Blue Jays that Bautista has some experience balancing on-field challenges with off-field distractions. This won’t be the last time the pending free agent is asked to juggle the two in 2016.