The big show has left town.
Jose Bautista’s three-game rehab stint with the Buffalo Bisons came to an end with a 2-1 loss to the Gwinnett Braves on Sunday. After helping bring in more than 40,000 people to Coca-Cola Field over the three-game series, Bautista left the stadium one final time with a driver, who took him to Toronto to rejoin the Blue Jays for Monday night’s game with the San Diego Padres.
Although Bautista received a roaring ovation each time he came up to the plate, it was a rather quiet weekend for the slugger. He went 1 for 11 with a lone single Saturday.
“It seems like pitching is dominating this season so far, and this stadium too, you have to crank it to get it out of here or to fall in the outfield,” Bautista said. “It was good competition here. It wasn’t easy, as you can tell by the fact that I only got one hit in three games.”
Nothing went right in the batter’s box in his final outing. Bautista went 0 for 4 Sunday, hitting into two 5-4-3 double plays.
“He’s probably just getting his timing down right now,” Bisons manager Gary Allenson said. “We’re here to get him back into shape. You’ll probably be surprised with the bright lights of a big league ballpark how well he does.”
Despite the performance, Bautista said he’s physically ready to go after playing his first nine-inning game with the Bisons as a right fielder Sunday. He served as the designated hitter Saturday night.
“My swing is responding,” Bautista said. “My eyes are telling me where the ball is. I’m much better today than when I first got here. In a short amount of time I felt I was tracking the ball better.
“When you haven’t played for five weeks there’s always something to deal with, but I don’t think anyone plays at 100 percent in the big leagues anymore.”
He showed a positive sign of his health in the third inning, tracking down a fly out to the warning track in right center field. He had a busy day in the outfield, making six catches.
“There’s been a couple fly balls, again with the wind, having to go side to side and be on my toes,” Bautista said. “That’s normally how you run in the outfield … being on the balls of my feet and running like that. It definitely was a good test.”
He returns to a Blue Jays team in the thick of a playoff battle. Toronto currently holds the second wild-card spot in the American League, with the AL East division-leader Baltimore well in their sights.
“I can only measure when I get up there,” Bautista said. “Just because I have success here doesn’t mean it’s going to translate over there, or vice versa.”
Designated hitter Ryan Goins continued his rehab with a strong outing Sunday, going 2 for 3 with a walk in his eighth game with the Bisons. Allenson said he expects Goins to be with the Herd for a few more games. He’s impressed in the field this series, making a few top-notch plays.
“He’s starting to come around,” Allenson said. “Hopefully he plays more short and second instead of DH here. I like defense out there.”