The man affectionately referred to as “Joey Bats” is attempting a comeback … not just with his bat, but with his arm.
According to a report from Jeff Passan of ESPN, former Blue Jay Jose Bautista is hoping to reemerge in the big leagues as a hitter and a pitcher. His unorthodox return may come as a two-way player; the next incarnation of Shohei Ohtani.
Bautista last played as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2018 but hasn’t played professional baseball in over a year-and-a-half. The 39-year-old is prepping himself to take part as a member of the Dominican Republic’s 2020 Olympic baseball team.
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
Besides representing his home country in the Olympics, the 39-year-old is also hoping to resurface in Major League Baseball for the first time since late September 2018.
Throughout the winter, Bautista’s former Blue Jays teammate Marcus Stroman sent some cryptic tweets about the two working out together, which in retrospect makes a ton of sense now.
“This man can pitch in a big league bullpen,” Stroman tweeted.
— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) January 17, 2020
While Bautista’s bat speed may have dissipated over the years, according to Passan’s scouting report, Bautista can reportedly hit 94 MPH on the radar gun.
Bautista had a cannon for an arm during his days with the Blue Jays, collecting 103 outfield assists over his 15-year career. His 86 outfield assists with the Blue Jays ranks second all-time in franchise history, with Jesse Barfield owning the crown with 117 outfield assists.
Impressive throws like these showed Bautista’s rocket-like ability to get the ball back to the infield. So, it’s not entirely ridiculous that he might harness that arm into a new role as a pitcher.
Bautista’s method to break back into the big leagues as a two-way player is an interesting one. If he somehow manages to re-sign with an MLB team and pitches 20 innings and plays 20 games as a position player or a designated hitter, he’ll receive “two-way player” designation, which would make him eligible on a roster as a hitter or pitcher.
But in order to start on an MLB team, Bautista would need to be assigned as a pitcher first, before working towards becoming a “two-way player”. It’s a plan that’s so crazy, it just might work.