TORONTO - Jose Bautista hears the angst; he understands the frustration of fans who want him in the lineup to bolster a Blue Jays club that has won only six of its first 15 games.
"I know there's a lot of passion here and they want to win games and so do I," said Bautista, who has been out since Monday with back spasms and has missed a total of six games with ankle and back problems so far this season. "I'm not going to do a disservice to everybody by being out there, not being 100-percent or making myself even worse for the future. It's still early in the season; it makes absolutely no sense for me to play like that. We have great players that can fill in in my absence and when I'm ready to go I'll be in the lineup."
The problem is his current injury is unpredictable. It doesn't come with an easily understood timeline. It will get better, well, when it gets better.
"I should be ready to go as soon as the pain goes away," said Bautista. "If the muscles are loose then there won't be any more pain. I just need it to loosen up and I haven't been able to get it loose in the last couple of days. Every night, when I go home, I feel like if I go to bed and I wake up in the morning I should be able to go if everything keeps progressing. It's just the last two nights it hasn't."
The back spasms, at their worst, make it difficult for Bautista to engage in the daily routines of life, let alone play baseball. Each morning, since Monday, it's been a struggle to get dressed, to bend over and tie shoes, and at night Bautista can't find the right position in bed that allows him a good night's sleep and the assurance his back muscles will be relaxed when he awakens.
"It's happened to me the last two nights where I leave here and I feel like I'm going to be good enough the next day to play and I just wake up and it's tight again," said Bautista. "Hopefully that doesn't happen tonight."
Bautista, who moved from right field to play third base in Kansas City when Jose Reyes went down with an ankle injury, isn't sure what initially caused his back to seize up.
"I don't think there was any one particular play or anything that made it that bad," said Bautista. "For whatever reason it just started to spasm up. Monday morning, when I woke up, it was just really, really tight. It's painful to move and play; something similar of what happened to me on my neck a year or two years ago. It's muscle spasms, you've just go to wait until it calms down. Take your meds, do your treatment and that's basically all you can do."
The Blue Jays were drubbed 7-0 by the White Sox on Wednesday night – or as manager John Gibbons put it, "they kicked our ass" – to drop to 3-6 at the Rogers Centre. Chicago starter Jose Quintana and two relievers, including Canadian Jesse Crain, shared a six-hit shutout. Toronto had only one runner reach third base: Munenori Kawasaki in the fifth.
Of the 18 home runs the Blue Jays have hit this season, 13 have been of the solo variety including the last five. The offence continues to sputter, struggling to put together innings in which hits and walks are strung together.
The absence of Bautista and Jose Reyes, lost for about three months with a severely sprained ankle, makes for a revamped and less effective top of the order. Reyes is arguably the game's best leadoff hitter, hard to replace. Bautista is arguably the sport's best power hitter, again, hard to replace.
Following Thursday's series finale with the White Sox, the Yankees come to town to begin a stretch in which the Blue Jays play 13-straight and 20 of the next 23 against American League East foes. A poor stretch and it won't be early anymore.
The club can only hope Bautista is back in time.