TORONTO – Blue Jays manager John Gibbons shrugged off the suggestion Wednesday that star slugger Jose Bautista had given the Indians some juicy bulletin-board material by suggesting rookie Cleveland pitcher Ryan Merritt would be “shaking in his boots.”
Merritt, a 24-year-old left-hander, had made just one career start in the majors prior to Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. He wasn’t on the Indians’ ALDS roster but has been pressed into action die to injuries in the rotation.
He is somewhat of a mystery for the Jays.
“We’ll try to look at videos, look at some scouting reports, see how his ball moves,” Bautista told reporters after Game 4 Tuesday. “Not having seen him is something that could go either way. But with our experience and our lineup I’m pretty sure he’s going to be shaking in his boots more than we are. So I like where we’re at.”
Asked Wednesday about the comment, Gibbons said he hadn’t give it any thought.
“The game plays itself out. It’s not like I haven’t heard (Bautista) ever say anything before,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t put too much into that.”
Bautista, no stranger to sharing his views with reporters, is “a perfect guy to go to if you want something,” Gibbons added.
Asked if he liked to follow the lead of Cubs manager Joe Maddon in leaving a famous quote on the chalkboard of the clubhouse before games, Gibbons didn’t miss a beat.
“We let Bautista do that,” he said, drawing laughter from reporters.
Indians manager Terry Francona said Merritt “justifiably” was a little nervous.
“I think the nerves will lessen when the game starts, just knowing him the little bit I do and from talking to people that do know him,” he said prior to the game.
“He knows he’s not alone out there,” Francona added. “He’s got us in the dugout and hopefully that reassures him a little bit. This start isn’t going to define his career. It would sure help us win a game if he pitches well. And I told him that.
“I think his biggest goal for today is to be himself and not try to let, whether it’s nerves or (something else) get in the way of who he is. And then you take what happens.”
Bautista, who turned 36 Wednesday, was in high spirits during batting practice. After Josh Donaldson hit a home run left-handed, Bautista took up the challenge and hit one out himself from the wrong side of the plate.
The veteran outfielder is poised to enter free agency this summer.
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