Bautista’s first availability of the spring

Lack of health last two years…
“I know that both injuries I had, the ones that actually took me out of the lineup for an extended period of time were from impact plays or a freak accident with the wrist. It’s not because I was neglecting my training regime or anything like that but it is disappointing and it is upsetting that I don’t get to go out there and finish the season with the team or finish strong. That has been the case in the last two years so hopefully it doesn’t happen again.”

Importance of team being together for another year…
“I think it helps. I don’t think it’s the main determinant of success or failure but I think it helps that we all know each other better. I think it will help with improved communication. We’re not going to be wasting time getting to know each other it’s just how do we keep getting better and better every day. I think that aspect is going to be much easier and we’ve kind of gotten to see with our own eyes, what our capabilities are on a day-to-day basis, how we can complement each other and how we can make each other better. I think it’s going to be an improvement on the
team overall just based on that as well.”

On being a leader and being the focus of the team…
“I can’t say that I agree with everything you just said but I think that if everybody does as well as they are capable of doing, with some leadership, and hopefully I get to help out in that area, I think we can be a much better team than we were last year and a closer team than we
showed last year that we were. That being said, I think it’s going to be a totally different season and hopefully with a lot of health everything is going to be taken care of. I don’t think we have to worry about talent level, or quality of players, or production, individually. As a group we
are good enough that is somebody is not doing great someone else can pick them up.”

On saying last year’s team was built to win going into the season…
“I don’t want to say anything to jinx us, I might not have had the answer then, but I do now, injuries went the wrong way for us. Actually that has been the case the last two years. If it’s luck, if it’s whatever it might have been, hopefully it changes this year. The only thing we need is to
remain healthy. If that is taken care of, everything else will fall into place.”

Enough pitching to contend…
“I think so. I think we have the best talented rotation that we’ve been able to acquire so far. Alex is very diligent at his work and he is very good at his craft. He has done all that he can do to bring these guys in here. Now that they’re here, it’s up to us and perform and it’s up those
pitchers to go out there every single day and kind of give us a chance to win. It’s our job to catch the ball, play good defense, drive people in and score a lot of runs. This is the group of players that we have and the talent is certainly there. We just need to execute and produce.”

Low average in April the last two years…
“I don’t want to say that it’s a trend because it has only been the last two years, but more importantly, I don’t want to make my batting average the focus of April, or my home runs. As long as we are winning games it shouldn’t matter what my batting average is. I’m going to be more focused on figuring out how to help us win on a day to day basis than what my batting average is. I’ll be way happier hitting .200 if we are 20-5 in April instead of hitting .370 and we’re 5-20.”

A lot of time with Melky this offseason…
“I think so. He looks like he is. I trained with him the last two months and he’s looking great. I never knew or realized that Melky was such a strong person. He’s way stronger than I am, physically. He really surprised me this offseason and hopefully the removal of the tumor from
his back is going to let him gain that lower extremity strength that he was lacking last year and the ability to move and be relaxed and mobile instead of being all tight and sore in his legs. I think that’s going to help him tremendously and not focus on the pain in his legs and back.”

How did you and Melky get together…
“I’ve been living in Tampa for the last 18 months and he moved there this offseason. It’s just natural for two teammates that live in the same city to work out together. It would be weird, awkward and odd if we didn’t. It was kind of easy and natural and we just kind of decided to start earlier than we normally do. We’re both coming off injuries and we’re trying to get into the best shape of our lives before Spring Training started.”

When did hip start feeling better…
“It kind of hurt going up and down the steps until maybe mid October. But after that I kind of started letting go and feeling good. After I saw the doctor in the second week of November is when I got cleared to finally start jogging and running and from there the progression was pretty easy.”

Leadership…
“I think it’s a combination, it’s a mix. Sometimes stuff needs to be said and sometimes doing what you do every single day should be enough. What I truly believe is that leadership does not necessarily correlate to responsibility. It kind of just reflects the fact that you might be doing
something positive that people can emulate to get positive results. At times it might entail that the line you walk might be a little finer but it’s always hard to just drop responsibilities on people because they are leaders. It’s also hard to have just one leader when it’s a big group of
people. I’ll try my best to always do what’s asked of me to the best of my capabilities. I felt like I’ve done that so far and I will continue to do that in the future.”

Specific things that you’re looking to do differently…
“Produce, just kind of see what kind of situations I have in front of me at all times and try to make something good happen for the team. The only at-bats I can do something like that, is when nobody is on and there are maybe two outs and it’s a blowout game. In those times, I’m just going to try and hit the ball hard. To reflect on your question, I don’t think I’m going to do anything too different from what I’ve done in the past. Ideally, I’d like to do better what makes me a good hitter and that’s swing at strikes and stay within my zones and not chase the pitches out
of the zone too much. I struggled with that, especially the last two seasons in April and stuff, but hopefully I can hit the ground running when this season starts and my plate discipline will be there when we started.”

On whether that’s a product of aggression or trying to do too much…
“I don’t know. I don’t see it that way. Every time you step to the plate and you have a chance to do something good you’re going to try. If you’re not trying there’s something wrong with you. I get what you’re saying, it might mean more like trying too hard. I don’t know if there’s a different
way for me. That’s the way I’ve always been and the way that I think I’m wired. I don’t know how to go about it any other way.”

First impressions of Seitzer…
“Great, I’ve just seen him for a couple of days. I talked to him a couple of times during the offseason and he was really accommodating and nice. We talked a little bit about hitting, my style and what I like to do for maintenance stuff. Same here for a couple of days. It has been great so far.”

Tough on younger guys to have a different voice at hitting coach each year…
“I don’t know how they feel, but when I was younger and I went through a similar process, at times I got confusing messages. But that was my situation. I don’t know how it has been for them, that was just my situation when I was coming up.”

But nice to have stability…
“Stability is always nice in every thing you can think about in life. I don’t think that’s the ideal thing but until you can find the right fit and something that works, I guess a team is going to keep trying to get better and I admire that part of our coaching staff. They’re not going to be satisfied in something that’s not working or there’s not the right fit, they’re going to keep trying to improve.”

Disappointed with lack of moves…
“Not at all. I think we have a good group of guys like I said earlier today. We’re very competitive, we’re really talented and I think if we remain healthy and everybody plays up to their capabilities, nobody needs to go out and do something outstanding, hit 60 home runs or have a sub- 1.00 ERA. We just need to play up to our capabilities. So that being said, and that being my frame of mind, I don’t think we necessarily need more pitchers. With the group of guys that we have if everybody stays healthy.”

Workouts with Melky…
“We had two workouts a day since December 15. One of the (workouts) was earlier in the day, and it was more functional stuff, more baseball related strength and movement. Balancing our bodies and making sure we don’t have any deficiencies in strength in one side of the body compared to the other. In baseball, every movement goes in one direction so with so much repetitiveness you tend to get weaker on one side than the other. Then the other, it was just pure strength and conditioning and speed and power. Working outdoors, doing more crazy weight lifting and cross-fit type workouts.”

Crazy weight that you lifted…
Flipping tires, pushing cars, crazy stuff like that.

Melky’s tumor…
“It’s tough. It puts a lot of things in perspective. When people don’t have the right information, even the person that is suffering. A lot of labels are thrown out there, a lot of categories people are put in, it just makes you think sometimes there’s more to look at, more to analyze before putting labels on people. Fortunately he is feeling better now and we’re going to focus on the future.

John Gibbons:

On Jose…
Jose is naturally a leader. Your top players in the game, teammates naturally gravitate to those guys, that’s just the way it is. He leads, but we’re not saying, ‘hey, you have to be the guy that takes this team.’ We’ve never said that. But he looked good today, he looked strong. We just have to keep him healthy. He has been banged up a little bit the last couple of years and finished on the DL. We need him for a good six months and he’s a big part of this.

Bautista’s slow start last two seasons…
“You look at the way the game works, certain guys, that’s just what happens to them. Some guys are just naturally slow starters and they do it their whole career. I think over time that becomes a mental thing, they expect it to happen. Same thing with pitchers. For whatever reason, you can try different things. We’re thinking about playing Jose a little bit more in Spring Training, give him a few more at-bats. He got a lot of at-bats last year, but maybe something like that.

“The game is so mental, some guys fall into that rut, over time they are generally slow starters, they generally expect it and then they explode. You see that quite often.”

More on the additional at-bats this spring…
“He did have a lot of at-bats last year but we may give him more. See if that will help out. Maybe that will jump start him a little bit.”

On maybe getting Bautista to not go for the big hit all of the time…
“I’ve talked to Jose on and off last year about some things. With Kevin (Seitzer), this is his first day with Jose. Jose has been one of the premier players in the league. You don’t come in and try to mess with things. But the hitting coach’s job is to tinker with some things if you have some advice , some things that might help them all get better. I will say this, you watch the way they throw the shift at him, they leave some big holes for him and there are some cheap RBIs that way.

“The way I look at it, say you get 50 home runs, which is an unbelievable year. That’s a lot of at-bats without home runs. If you’re more of a complete hitter, take some hits over here to get a rally going, drive in a big run, that can only help.”

1 Comment

Thanks for a great spring training report so far. Eager to hear about how the starters are progressing.

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