The bright sides can be hard to find these days, as the Mets hover dangerously below .500, and the general manager is talking about how bad things have to get before the team decides to sell the farm. But as Jose Bautista zips around rightfield, or works out a walk, or otherwise tries to reclaim some of that former glory, there is at least this: At least this is going better than the Mets could have reasonably hoped.
Hey, it’s something.
The 37-year-old Bautista on Saturday hit a solo homer in the eighth inning, doubled in a run in the second inning, and walked in the fourth. He made an athletic running catch off a well-struck ball by Justin Turner in the third, saving a potential extra-base hit and showing he still has the ability to cover ground. This all came a day after he hit a two-run home run, his first as a Met.
And granted, these are modest accomplishments, but for a man whose career looked to be all but done, they clearly mean a lot.
“It’s always good to contribute in any way,” he said Friday — so much more soft-spoken than you’d imagine the man who made bat flipping a national spectator sport. “Hopefully, I have a couple more coming.”
Bautista now has reached base safely in the last nine games, and more than half of his plate appearances in that span have ended with him pestering opposing pitchers on the basepaths.
He went into the game Saturday with a .438 on-base percentage since joining the Mets on May 22. He had nine walks in the previous eight games and added another Saturday night.
“I think what he’s done the best is take his walks,” Mickey Callaway said Saturday, adding that he’s looking for opportunities to hit Bautista against lefties. Some of that, he acknowledged, may come at the expense of Dominic Smith, though he still intends to find ample opportunities for Smith to show what he’s got.
“He’s still being patient,” he said of Bautista. “You don’t normally see pinch hitters be patient because they’re a little anxious that they haven’t been in the flow of the game, so they go out there with a little more anxiety and maybe chase a pitch or two and I’m not seeing that from him. He puts together a real ly good at-bat whether he starts that night or he comes in to pinch hit and I think it’s due to his ability to kinda be patient and be more selective and just wait on his pitch.”
That’s why Bautista was in the starting lineup Saturday, batting fifth — much like the formidable hitter he was once known to be. He came into the game batting .205 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 40 games with the Mets and Blue Jays.
“I don’t think there’s something special” with how he’s been able to adapt to a bench role, Bautista said Friday after his homer. “It’s always good to contribute in any way [and] hopefully, [I have] a couple more coming . . . Patience is the hardest thing to be consistent with whether you’re playing every day or not.”
Patience, though, comes in many forms. It comes at the plate. It comes when you’re waiting for your opportunity, on the bench. And it comes at the tail end of your career, when you’re learning new things and trying to manufacture a bright side in a gloomy situation.