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Bautista closer to full recovery from wrist injury

TORONTO -- Jose Bautista's rehab from season-ending surgery on his left wrist is going so well that the Blue Jays right fielder believes he could be game-ready in November.

Since there are no Major League games remaining in 2012, Bautista will wait until Spring Training, but there should be no concern with how his wrist checks out when he reports to camp in February.

Bautista first injured his wrist in a July 16 contest in the Bronx, which forced him to miss over a month of play. He returned for a pair of games toward the end of August in Baltimore but felt discomfort in his wrist in the second affair after just one plate appearance, which forced him to leave the game and subsequently ended his season.

It was determined that Bautista would undergo surgery -- performed by Dr. Thomas Graham -- to repair the sheath in his wrist that holds the tendon in place. After a little over a month removed from the operation, the three-time All-Star is happy with the progress he has made.

"The wrist is feeling good. It's getting the range of motion back," Bautista said at an end-of-the-year press conference. "Still a little bit of soreness and a little bit of stiffness, but it's pretty normal considering the point in the recovery that I'm at right now."

Bautista is still trying to get the swelling out of his wrist, while building up his mobility and getting the full range of motion back. The next step in his rehab will be a strengthening program, which should begin before the end of October -- providing there are no setbacks -- and then the soon-to-be 32-year-old will start swinging the bat again.

There should be no doubt, according to Bautista, about his offensive production moving forward. He has heard some outsiders question whether he will regain the power that made him the home run champion in both 2010 and '11, and he emphatically squashed the skepticism.

"I want to know who those people are who think I'm not going to get it back because of this particular injury," Bautista said. "The only people that could know that are either the people who had the surgery or that do the surgery.

"I've talked to about 20 people in that position, and they all seem to agree that it was a 99.9 percent chance that I was going to be the same player that I ever was before the injury."

One of those people is Rays outfielder Sam Fuld, who underwent a nearly identical operation as Bautista's. When the Rays visited Toronto shortly after Bautista opted for surgery, Fuld spoke about the severity of the injury and his personal experiences from it.

Fuld initially tried to rehab his injured wrist before opting for surgery, and felt like Bautista made the right move to go under the knife immediately. The two spoke before Bautista chose surgery, and Fuld assured him that although the injury requires a lengthy rehab process, Bautista should come out of it as strong as ever.

"[Bautista] was just curious about the whole procedure and how I felt coming off the surgery, and I just told him, really, it's been great," Fuld said at the time. "Other than occasional soreness, I really don't even think about my wrist when I'm out there.

"At the time, before [Bautista] had made up his mind to do the surgery, he was worried about the stability of the tendon in there, and I said after the surgery it has felt as stable as my good one. ... I'm very confident that he'll come back in the same form he was before the surgery."

Power is a big part of Bautista's game, so to hear those encouraging words from Fuld made his decision to elect surgery over rehab an easy one. Since 2010, Bautista's 124 home runs are more than any player in the game. He led the Majors with 54 in '10 and then 43 in '11, before blasting 27 in his abbreviated '12 campaign.

Bautista scuffled at the beginning of the year, batting just .181 with three homers, a .320 on-base percentage and a .634 OPS through the first month of the season, but snapped out of the early funk and displayed the offensive prowess that has made him one of the premier power hitters in the game.

From May 1 until his final plate appearance of the season in Baltimore on Aug. 25, Bautista hit .261 with 24 homers, a .372 OBP and a .598 slugging percentage, good for a .970 OPS.

Bautista's goal for 2013 is to be more consistent from the start of the season, and one way he thinks he can accomplish that is by being more patient at the plate.

Bautista felt he was doing himself and his team a disservice by being overly aggressive in April and by swinging at pitchers' pitches, which ultimately expanded his strike zone.

"I could have used a better on-base percentage this year. The lack of discipline at the plate early on really hurt my overall numbers when it comes to getting on base," said Bautista, who was second in the Majors in 2011 with a .447 OBP. "I wasn't getting pitched to earlier in the year, and other teams were taking advantage because I kept swinging at bad pitches."

Bautista is raring to go and has over five months to recover before Toronto opens its 2013 season at home against the Indians on April 2. Fans can expect Bautista to be penciled into his customary three-spot in the Blue Jays order.

"I have no doubt that I could be ready to play in about a month -- game-type situations -- in a Major League game," Bautista said. "Definitely plenty of time before Spring Training and the start of the season."

Toronto Blue Jays, Jose Bautista, Sam Fuld