Tulowitzki, Gibbons impressed by Bautista’s spring performance

Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) hits a foul ball against the Detroit Tigers during first inning Grapefruit baseball spring training action in Dunedin, Fla., on Wednesday, March 1, 2017. (Nathan Denette/CP)

• Jose Bautista impressing Blue Jays teammates
• John Gibbons says 36-year-old is “locked in”
• Bautista not reading too much into spring results

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Troy Tulowitzki sounds genuinely impressed by what he’s seeing from Jose Bautista at the plate. Marcus Stroman enjoys every line drive that leaves Bautista’s bat. John Gibbons says he’s seeing Bautista do things he’s never seen him do before.

Perhaps the lone person who seems unimpressed by Bautista’s spring performance is Jose Bautista himself.

"I’m not going to get too excited about it," Bautista said Sunday. "I won’t complain, but I’m not going to start feeling like I’m going to win a batting championship."

As Bautista suggests, it’d be misguided to read too much into spring results. At the same time, teams do draw some conclusions this time of year—executives finalize rosters, scouts write up reports. If you’re careful, you might leave a Grapefruit League game having learned something concrete.

Bautista’s spring success—two home runs, a stolen base and nine hits compared to just seven outs—suggests that he’s feeling physically strong after a 2016 season that included two stints on the disabled list. It’s not just the games that are encouraging either.

"Today’s probably the best BP I’ve ever seen him have," Gibbons said. "And I’ve been around him a few years. He’s really locked in."

Tulowitzki, who made his spring debut Sunday, has been encouraged by what he’s seen all week. At the plate, Bautista looks good.

"Almost too good," Tulowitzki joked. "He’s got to slow down a little. Bats is obviously a great player. I think with how things played out I think he’s really happy right now to be back. I think he always plays with a chip on his shoulder, but maybe a little extra chip to prove to maybe some teams out there that maybe he was worth a little bit more than what he got.

"Bats, he’s a special player."

For Bautista, the results do not matter. Not the .563 batting average, and maybe not even the steady stream of line drives he’s been hitting (quality of competition should be considered, after all). But he’s pleased with the way he feels.

"It’s good to feel good," he said. "Compared to a normal person, when your back aches or you have a headache, you don’t feel good. As baseball players we deal with stuff all of the time. That’s when you don’t feel good. My body just feels good."

The next step for Bautista is the World Baseball Classic, where he’ll get the chance to face off against some of his Blue Jays teammates, including Marcus Stroman in the opening round. Neither Bautista nor Stroman will forget who gets the best of whom at the WBC.

"I’ve been clowning and joking around with Bautista the entire time about it," Stroman said. "Bautista’s one of the best home run hitters in the history in the game and he’s one of my best friends, so playing against your best friends, I feel like it brings out the best in both of you. I can’t wait."

Bautista has risen to the occasion on big stages before, but he says he’s motivated by his own high expectations rather than outside voices. He expects to bring that sense of purpose to the field every day.

"That’s how I drive myself to be the best guy I can be," Bautista said. "I always play that way regardless of what other people think, what other people say, if I need to prove people wrong or not. It doesn’t become an active part of my motivation. I just always want to give the best of me every single day."

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