DUNEDIN, Fla. — Jose Bautista merely looked like a clean-up hitter for the Blue Jays on Friday. Toronto manager Cito Gaston has no plans on moving him off the top of the order.
Bautista, the leading candidate to be the Toronto’s leadoff batter, homered and added two doubles in the Jays’ 14-9 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
“I think I’ll leave him right where he’s at,” Gaston said. “He’s been swinging the bat ever since he got the chance to play at the end of last season.”
Gaston won’t get an argument from Bautista.
“One of the most important things is what happened last year, having consistent at-bats,” he said. “That allows you to make adjustments.
“My better years are the ones where I’ve been playing consistently. It’s a little tough when you’re coming off the bench.”
Bautista is not an average leadoff batter. Speed is not a major part of his arsenal.
“It’s picking your times to go,” he said. “I know I’m not going to try to bunt for hits all the time.
“I don’t have that kind of speed. But there’ll be times when I think if Cito allows me I’ll be able to take some bags.
”I’m not going to go out there and try to steal 50 bags, but there’ll be situations and pitches and counts with certain hitters at the plate that I’ll be able to take it if the situation commands it.“
Bautista’s homer was the only run allowed by Cole Hamels, who gave up two hits in two innings.
Brandon Morrow, who bounced between Seattle’s starting rotation and bullpen before being traded to Toronto in December, staked his first claim to being a full-time starter with two hitless innings. He allowed a two-out walk in the first and retired everyone else in order.
“I was rushing a little in the first inning but that’s hard not to do when it’s your first outing facing the two-time NL champs with five straight all-stars starting it off,” Morrow said. “Maybe I was trying to throw too many strikes in the beginning. In the second inning I came out and was a lot more aggressive,” striking out Jayson Werth and Domonic Brown.
The Phillies tied it in the top of the third on Ross Gload’s triple and Brian Schneider’s grounder, and Toronto got the run back in the bottom of the inning against J.C. Ramirez on Bautista’s double and Adam Lind’s grounder.
Then the Blue Jays erupted for eight runs in the fourth inning, two on Bautista’s second double off Ramirez and three more on Lyle Overbay’s double off Ryan Vogelsong.
Toronto built its lead to 14-2 after five innings. Five relievers followed Morrow to the mound, and only right-hander Casey Janssen was unscathed.
Tyson Gillies homered off David Purcey.
<B>NOTES<P>: In a B game at Clearwater, the Blue Jays beat the Phillies 3-2. Starting LHP Brad Mills, followed by RHP Chad Jenkins, pitched two shutout innings apiece, and David Cooper homered for Toronto. Phillies LHP Jamie Moyer threw three scoreless innings. ... The Blue Jays face the Yankees on Saturday in Tampa with RHP Shaun Marcum starting against RHP A. J. Burnett.