Former Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista knows the market for aging power hitters doesn’t exist in today’s game. In an effort to convince teams he still deserves a shot, the 39-year-old Bautista isn’t making his comeback attempt as a hitter. Instead, he’s going to try and return to the majors as a two-way player, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Bautista spent the winter working out as a pitcher to prepare for his comeback. He’s expected to play for the Dominican Republic in the 2020 Olympics, so major-league scouts should get a chance to see Bautista during the qualifiers. It’s unclear whether Bautista will pitch in the qualifiers, however. He’s expected to play first base for the Dominican Republic.
What are Bautista’s chances of making it back to the majors?
Bautista has some skill on the mound. He can allegedly hit 94 mph with his fastball, according to Passan.
I've seen video of Jose Bautista throwing a bullpen session. Couldn't tell the velocity, but one source said he can run his fastball up to 94. His slider had legitimate tilt -- threw a short one and a bigger bender. @STR0 said in January he could pitch in a big league bullpen.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 2, 2020
Even if Bautista is impressive on the mound, his chances of making a comeback are slim. There’s just not a lot of interest in 39-year-old players, and it doesn’t help that Bautista hit just .203/.348/.378 in 2018.
It’s not impossible, of course, it’s just unlikely that Bautista fights his way back.
Who is joining Bautista during the 2020 Olympic qualifiers?
Bautista will be joined by Tampa Bay Rays shortstop prospect Wander Franco on the Dominican Republic’s team. Franco, 19, is widely considered the best prospect in baseball. The Rays have given Franco permission to participate in the Olympic qualifiers.
Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association and World Baseball Softball Confederation agreed to a deal that would allow minor-league players to participate in the 2020 Olympics. Those players can only play in the Olympics if their major-league team allows it, however. It’s unclear whether teams other than the Rays will allow their best prospects to take part in the event.
Olympics will give Bautista a shot to prove himself
Bautista can change some minds with a strong performance at the Olympic qualifiers. If his bat looks quicker than it did in 2018, and his repertoire on the mound is impressive, Bautista could latch on with a major-league club.
It would make for one heck of a story. And considering Bautista provided baseball fans with the greatest bat-flip of all time, we would love to see his celebration after striking out a hitter in a big moment.
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