TORONTO — Jose Bautista is well aware of the nasty things some people are saying about him as he waits for the spasms in his back to ease enough so he can return to the Toronto Blue Jays lineup.
There have been questions about his dedication, his toughness, his manhood, and other such garbage.
“Oh yeah, I have Twitter,” he said Wednesday night, seated uncomfortably in a chair in front of his locker, an icepack strapped to his back, after a 7-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox. “Don’t worry, I’m saving a lot of pictures and making myself a nice collage.”
The star slugger’s sarcasm was a clear reflection of his irritation at suggestions that he’s perhaps babying his injuries, having already missed three games earlier this season with a right ankle sprain.
But given that he played through a sports hernia in 2010, and other assorted aches and pains the past two seasons, Bautista certainly deserves better, especially with something as touchy as a back problem.
If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he can’t play.
“It is frustrating but I can’t control it. What can I do?” he said. “The competitor in me wants to do other things, but the professional in me has to be polite and do things right.
“I’m going to let my play dictate what I bring to this city and this team, and hopefully I get healthy as soon as possible, get back out there and contribute to wins. That’s all that’s going to matter in the end.”
Bautista isn’t sure what led to his back spasms — “I did a couple of things that weekend but I can’t point to one thing where after a play I said, ‘Oh that hurts,’” he explained — but started to feel things tightening up on him during Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Royals.
Things progressively worsened from there, to the point getting dressed, tying his shoes, even finding a position to sleep in has been a challenge.
“I was able to play through it (Sunday) because I was loose and had the adrenaline going, but when I sat on the plane, and I landed, it was tight, and then I went to bed and it was super tight, and it got painful,” he explained.
“The last two nights I left here and felt like I’m going to be good enough the next day to play and when I wake up and it’s tight again. Hopefully that doesn’t happen tonight.”
Precautionary tests showed the issue is strictly muscular and unrelated to the spine, which is the good news for Bautista.
He started on a new medicine Wednesday and hoped that combined with his treatment and mild rehab work would get him well enough to resume playing Thursday.
“I’m not in control of it,” he said. “I wish I was. I just have to rest, take my medicine and do the rehab in the least invasive way it can be so you don’t disrupt that again, and it restarts.”
A contributing factor to some of the criticism for Bautista is that the Blue Jays have gone 1-2 in his absence and are now 6-9, the offence looking far less formidable without his fearsome bat in the order.
Even before both he and Jose Reyes were hurt, runs have been hard to come by and they’re a lot more scarce right now.
“I’m not worried about anything in particular but I have noticed we can use a little more consistency as an offensive unit,” said Bautista. “We don’t need more hits, we just need some hits at the right times and I’ve been one to come up with enough opportunities and not been able to cash in. With men in scoring position and less than two outs, I need to get better than (1-for-7).
“If you ask everybody else, I’m sure they can point to different scenarios that are similar.”
Bautista also doesn’t see much reason for the growing fatalism among some Blue Jays fans.
While certainly not the start the club wanted, he doesn’t believe things are anywhere near as dire as they seem. Some perspective among the adversity is needed.
“I’ve seen a lot of things too — it’s a long season, and that’s why you can’t panic — where we’ve hit a lot of balls on the screws and it seems to go right at somebody,” he explained. “It only takes sometimes one of those balls to fall and the outcome of the game changes. If you think about it, if two of those balls fall, we have two more wins, two less losses, we’re over .500 and nobody says anything. We’re not panicking because of a couple of games. It’s still too early to be thinking about anything like that.”
And Bautista is sure to be smart when he returns to the lineup.
The season still has 147 games left, so an extra day or two on the front end isn’t going to tip the scales either way.
“I’m not going to do a disservice to everybody by being out there and not being 100 per cent or making myself even worse for the future,” said Bautista. “It’s still early in the season, it makes absolutely no sense for me to play like that.”