Bautista confident of return to lineup Tuesday

June 30, 2014, 3:52 PM

Jose Bautista’s strained left hamstring has improved to the point that he’s confident he’ll return to the starting lineup against the Milwaukee Brewers Tuesday.

The 33-year-old slugger, who rested for six games before pinch hitting against the Chicago White Sox Sunday, said he feels “much better, close to 100 percent” and could potentially play right field for the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday.

“(There’s been) a lot of progress. When you have this type of injury, the most important thing is to relax and get downtime to let it heal and recover. That’s what I’ve had to do, but (with) a lot of treatment at the same time,” he said at the opening of a Booster Juice location that he now owns in Toronto’s Bloor West Village Monday.

“Now it’s feeling much better and obviously it’s not 100 percent yet, but it’s good enough to at least DH for the next couple of games and then we’ll see from there.”

Once Bautista returns to the starting lineup, he’ll see how it responds and confer with manager John Gibbons to determine if full or partial days off are required.

“It’s just day-to-day and any day can be different than the other, so hopefully there’ll be days of improvement in between here and the All-Star break,” Bautista said.

Bautista had previously been a spokesperson for Booster Juice, but has now expanded his relationship with the company to the point that he’s now a store owner. As fans lined up for the chance to meet with Bautista, he said he’s committed to Toronto — and to the Blue Jays.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of Toronto,” Bautista said. “I got welcomed here with open arms and have had a wonderful experience and a lot of success here, so I’ve always held the city close to my heart for a very long time now and it’s no secret that I’ve been here for a while and I wouldn’t mind staying for even a while longer.”

Bautista, whose contract covers the 2015 season with a team option for 2016 said he’d like to stay in Toronto long-term.

“People from all over the world from different cultures clash here in Toronto, and being from the Dominican Republic it’s one place I’m really comfortable,” he said. “I just love the city. Hopefully I’m here for a long time.”

Bautista, who went back to school to complete a degree in business management, also serves on the board of directors of Marucci Sports, the brand that makes his bats. He takes an active interest in business, while other athletes might be content to snap a photo and move on.

“It’s great to take a hands-on approach, instead of doing the traditional endorsement deals where you just take some pictures and put your face to the brand,” he said. “Taking a hands-on approach is something that I take pride in because I’m big on business.”

Years from now he aims to have business experience, as well as playing experience. “It’s something that I can foresee being part of my future for the long haul, so why not start now,” he said.

As for the Blue Jays, who are 45-39 after losing 15 of their last 22 games, Bautista expressed confidence that they’ll be contending for the entire season.

“We’re still in first place,” he said.

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