Jose Bautista has become one of the most feared hitters in baseball, but he hasn't lived up to that billing against the lowly Baltimore Orioles this year.
Bautista appears to have his home run swing back in order as the Toronto Blue Jays visit the last-place Orioles in the opener of a three-game series Friday in a 7:05 p.m. ET start at Camden Yards.
The game will also mark the major league debut of Blue Jays third-base prospect Brett Lawrie, who was recalled from AAA Las Vegas on Thursday. He will bat ninth in the order
Lawrie's arrival, initially planned for Toronto's last visit to Baltimore in early June, was derailed after he was hit by a pitch in a AAA game on May 31 and suffered a non displaced fracture to a bone in the back of his left hand.
When third-base prospect Brett Lawrie takes the field for the Blue Jays on Friday night in Baltimore, the Langley, B.C., native will become the 17th Canadian player to appear in a game for the club.
The others include:
- Denis Boucher, Lachine, Que.
- Rich Butler, Toronto
- Rob Butler, Toronto
- Rob Ducey, Cambridge, Ont.
- Shawn Hill, Georgetown, Ont.
- Paul Hodgson, Montreal
- Vince Horsman, Halifax
- Corey Koskie, Anola, Man.
- Dave McKay, Vancouver
- Simon Pond, North Vancouver, B.C.
- Scott Richmond, Vancouver
- Steve Sinclair, Victoria
- Paul Spoljaric, Kelowna, B.C.
- Matt Stairs, Fredericton
- Paul Quantrill, London, Ont.
- Mark Teahen (father has roots in St. Marys, Ont)
Lawrie leaves Las Vegas with a .353 batting average in 69 games with the 51s. He also led the team with 18 home runs and added 61 runs batted in and a .415 on-base percentage
Upon his arrival, Bautista will move back to right field, where he is best suited for the Blue Jays.
Bautista's solo home run in Thursday's 7-6, 12-inning loss at Tampa Bay bumped his totals to 87 homers and 197 RBIs since the start of last season, leading the majors in both categories while the next-closest home run total is 20 away by St. Louis' Albert Pujols.
Bautista's 33 homers are tops in baseball this year, and he's fifth in the American League with a .321 average.
His only two hits in the past three games have been solo shots, a stretch which comes after he went a season-high 14 games without a home run.
Held in check
He's gone 11 in a row without homering against Baltimore (43-65) while batting .143 (5-for-35). Even though the Orioles rank last in the majors with a 4.86 earned-run average and 137 homers allowed, they are the only team to face Bautista in more than four games this year and keep him in the yard.
In 28 games at Camden Yards, Bautista has hit .191 with six long balls.
The start of this series may not lend well to Bautista, who is 0-for-8 versus Tommy Hunter, Friday's scheduled starter.
Despite Bautista's struggles, the Blue Jays have won 21 of the last 27 meetings with the Orioles, taking two of three at home from July 26-28.
Toronto (56-55) turns to Brad Mills, who was a hard-luck loser in his season debut in Saturday's 3-0 defeat to Texas. The left-hander allowed two runs in seven innings.
He was impressive in his only meeting with the Orioles on July 28, 2010, yielding two hits in seven innings of a 5-0 victory. That stands as his only win in 10 games (six starts) over three seasons.
The Orioles are opening a 10-game homestand after losing five of six following Thursday's 9-4 defeat at Kansas City. They may be without J.J. Hardy, who left Thursday's loss with a sore ankle. He hit his 19th homer of the season before getting hurt and is considered day-to-day.
"The good news, it doesn't seem to be like an ankle turn, [because] it's not swelling," manager Buck Showalter told the team's official website. "We will see where we are [Friday]. [Cesar Izturis] might be coming back at just the right time."
Izturis is expected to return from nerve irritation in his right elbow, which needed surgery and landed him on the disabled list in May. He may fill in for Hardy at short, but he's just 5-for-26 with Baltimore this year.
Izturis went 3-for-10 with three RBIs in a three-game rehab stint in the minors.
"I'm excited," Showalter said. "We haven't had him here in a while. He can do a lot things for us. We'll be able to use him in a lot of ways."
Hunter (1-1, 3.31 ERA) is getting his first start since being acquired in a three-player deal with Texas on Saturday. He allowed one run in one inning of relief in his team debut during Tuesday's 8-2 win over the Royals.
The right-hander is 1-1 with an 8.05 ERA in three starts versus Toronto.