Blue Jays notebook: Bautista picking his spots with throws in right field

Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista unleashes a throw. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

TORONTO – Jose Bautista is being more selective about when he unleashes his throwing arm in right field, as his shoulder remains at about “85-90 per cent” of full strength after last year’s strain.

The Toronto Blue Jays right-fielder, who has one outfield assist so far this season, suffered the injury last April when an aggressive throw to first base against during an emotional game against the Baltimore Orioles aggravated an already nagging issue.

This season he hasn’t been returning the ball to the infield with the same type of laser-beam throws that became his trademark, but that’s by design he said Monday.

“It’s using it when you need to, having the history of the injury last year, on an unnecessary throw, there’s more of a conscious effort on my end to just make the necessary throw,” Bautista said in an interview. “I haven’t really been challenged too much, I’ve made the throws, hit the cut-off man to make sure we’ve got the ball in and show people that the arm is there, because if you don’t then they’ll start taking more chances, which if they do so be it. I’m going to still be there trying to make the plays. We’ll see what happens.”

Heading into Monday’s play, runners have gone first to third on a single to right field against Bautista in four of eight opportunities, according to data on Only once in four times has a runner on second held at third base on single, while once in four chances has a runner at first held at third on a double, but worth remembering is that each play is situation dependent.

Bautista continues to strengthen his shoulder through long-tossing and other maintenance work, but no longer requires any rehabilitation or treatment.

“It’s not necessarily that the injury’s physical aspects are still existent, but the neuro-muscular ones are the biggest hurdles to cross at the end,” he said. “You get used to playing through an injury, you adapt, and you change your throwing motion to find the path of least pain and restriction, which is definitely not the most adequate one when you’re healthy, so you slowly have to work your way back to your normal throwing motion.”

At this point, Bautista said there’s no timetable for when his shoulder might get back to full strength.

“Maybe in two weeks, maybe in a month, maybe in two months I’ll be back to 100 per cent. I’m pretty close to it,” he said. “At the end of the day I can make plays now, I don’t think it doesn’t allow me to be the player that I can be. I used to be able to throw balls out of stadiums. Maybe I can’t do that anymore, right now, but that’s not to say in two months I won’t be able to do that again. Is that really necessary right now? There’s a time to make throws and a time to hold it in. I used to throw just for the sake of throwing. There’s no need for that.”

WAIVER GAMES: Drew Hutchison remained on the Blue Jays roster for an extra day after Sunday’s spot start because the right-hander first had to clear optional waivers as a player with at least three years of service time.

Optional waivers are revocable but once a team pulls back a player, that player can’t be optioned again with the ability to be pulled back. Generally, teams don’t claim players on optional waivers because there’s little chance of actually getting the player.

The Blue Jays planned to option Hutchison after Monday’s game against the Chicago White Sox, with a position player that sounds like Matt Dominguez expected to be recalled from triple-A Buffalo.

“You’d look at (Chris) Colabello going down, he’s our right-handed guy against lefties, so we’ve talked about that quite a bit,” manager John Gibbons said when asked what skillset he felt the roster needed. “Maybe a guy who can play a little first, a little third, and play it well, we’ve talked about a lot of things.”

BARNEY IN A PINCH: Russell Martin didn’t get the start again Monday as he continues to struggle with neck stiffness.

“He’s feeling better,” said John Gibbons, but added, “we’ve got to try to nip that.”

Without a backup catcher, inifielder Darwin Barney was set up as the emergency backstop. Josh Donaldson caught in the majors in 2010 and 2012, but Gibbons said he wouldn’t take the risk with the AL MVP.

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