BALTIMORE -- The Blue Jays walked off the field with their heads hung low after a 3-2 extra-inning loss to the Orioles on Opening Day, but if there was one positive to be found, it was the way Jose Bautista played right field.Bautista's defense has been criticized in recent years,
BALTIMORE -- The Blue Jays walked off the field with their heads hung low after a 3-2 extra-inning loss to the Orioles on Opening Day, but if there was one positive to be found, it was the way Jose Bautista played right field.
Bautista's defense has been criticized in recent years, particularly during an injury-plagued 2016, but he made a pair of highlight-reel plays on Monday afternoon at Camden Yards. The glove, the arm -- everything was working but the bat in the season opener.
The 36-year-old Bautista picked up a pair of assists from the outfield, and at one point he appeared to save the game with a diving grab off the bat of Joey Rickard in the bottom of the ninth. Bautista finished the day 0-for-5 with eight men left on base, but considering where things were a year ago, the defense was a big plus.
"He does, he definitely does," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said after the game when asked if Bautista looks better in the field now that he's back to full health.
Bautista's first impressive play came in the third inning, when he fielded a ball off the wall in right and then threw a strike to rob Chris Davis of extra bases.
The more impressive of the plays was saved for the ninth. With a runner on first, Bautista reacted to a sharp liner off the bat of Rickard by coming in and making a diving grab. He then quickly got up and threw to first for the double play. If the ball had gotten away from Bautista, the game could have been over, but instead it was just the inning that came to an end.
According to Statcast™, the play came with a 21 percent Catch Probability and was considered a five-star catch, which is the most difficult on the 1-to-5 scale. Bautista only had to travel 38 feet, but he also had just 3.0 seconds of opportunity time from when the pitch was released. It was the quick reaction that earned the five-star rating, and it comes after he went 0-for-41 in those situations from 2015-16.
"That helps you win games, but then on the flip side, you look at [Manny] Machado down there at first, Devon Travis' ball, that very well could have been the difference in the game," Gibbons said in reference to Machado's diving grab in the 11th. "That's what great players do. They not only play offensively, they do it defensively."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.