By Bob Elliott
KANSAS CITY _ And on Aug. 10, 2009 an era in right field came to an end at the Rogers Centre.
Alex Rios, former No. 1 pick of the Blue Jays in 1999, was claimed by the Chicago White Sox on waivers.
And taking his place moving from back-up to starting role was Jose Bautista.
The former Blue Jays right fielder was in right field wearing his Kansas City Royals uniform No. 15, as K.C. took on the Blue Jays with Bautista, wearing No. 19 in right field in Game 1 of the best-of-seven American League Championship Series Friday at Kauffman Stadium.
Rios was asked if he remembered who took his position when he headed for the White Sox, way back then?
“I’m not sure, Travis Snider?” asked Rios between rounds of batting practice.
Told it was Bautista, Rios smiled and recalled how the Jays had acquired Bautista from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“He was a good player, but he was a back-up then, he just never got the chance to play every day,” said Rios. “I’m glad he got the chance. He certainly took advantage of it.”
Did Rios see the symmetry of it all one right fielder yielding his position to another and now the two facing off six years later?
“That’s baseball,” said Rios.
Bautista was asked whose job he took when he became an every day player?
“Was it Kevin Mench? No he was gone in 2008? Was in Scott Rolen? No, I was in right field,” said Bautista near the Jays dugout.
Bautista made 32 starts in right after Rios had started 102 games (Snider had 19 starts and Joe Inglett nine). He also had 22 starts at third base, while Scott Rolen had 87 and Edwin Encarnacion 42.
Told he took over for the current K.C. right fielder, he said “Rios? That’s baseball.”
Similar answers, similar players.
They had similar nights in Game 1: Bautista (0-for-1, with three walks) and Rios (0-for-3, with two strikouts). Now that they have reached the post season the active player who has played the most amount of games is none other than Adam Lind (1.102 games).
Both had the key hits in Game 5 to get their teams here:
Rios bounced a double inside the third base bag off Houston Astros’ reliever Mike Fiers scoring Sal Perez and Alex Gordon to give the Royals a 3-2 lead.
Bautista’s Jays were tied 3-3 in the seventh inning when Sam Dyson threw a pitch Bautista turned around and drove to left-centre for a three-run homer. Bautista then turned and flipped the bat toward the K.C. dugout. Dyson the menacing man caused two bench-emptying events the first with Edwin Encarnacion and the second with Troy Tulowitzki.
Before looking up the age difference in the two we guessed that Rios was four years older.
We asked our Ken Fidlin and he guessed three years. We asked Jay Stenhouse, the Jays crack P.R. man and he guessed three.
Bautista was born Oct. 19, 1980 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Rios was born 122 days later in Coffee, Ala. and went to high school in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. He spent five years with the Chicago White Sox, two with the Texas Rangers and signed with the Royals as a free agent.
In his 12 years Rios has played 1,691 games, hitting 169 homers, driving in 794, stealing 253 bases and owns a career .277 average with a .755 OPS.
Bautista has played 1,403 in 12 years with 286 homers, 793 RBIs, 58 steals, a .257 average and an .865 OPS.
One was supposed to be a Blue Jays legend.
One became one.
ALMOST A RED SOX: Before the Jays put Rios on waivers and the White Sox picked up the $61.667 million US remaining on his contract, the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals expressed interest.
The best offer for Roy Halladay came from Boston leading up to the 2009 July 31, non-waiver trade deadline. The Jays said no to an offer of right-handed starters Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson, reliever Michael Bowden, lefty Nick Hagadone and a position player, likely outfielder Josh Reddick.
The Red Sox, who according to one Boston official made an offer of “half of what we made for Halladay.”
Why allow Rios to walk and get zero players in return? Well, two different people were making the decisions.
Then, general manager J.P. Ricciardi gave the trades a thumbs down before the July 31 deadline, but president Paul Beeston made the call on Aug. 11 to clear the Rios salary from the books.
NOLAN, NOLAN: Harold Reynolds of FOX Sports told this one the other day as a young Seattle Mariners second facing Hall of Famer Hall of Fame right-hander.
“After he’d finish his final warm up pitch of the game, he’d come down off the mound, walk half way to home plate and stamp on the turf as if patting it down. No one in the crowd could tell but when he had his head down he was saying ‘DON’T YOU BUNT ON ME, DON’T YOU DARE BUNT ON ME.’
“I stepped in and I stand right up on the plate. He throws a pitch up and under my chin. Down I go. Now, I’m thinking if I back off the plate he’ll think I’m afraid, so I stand in the exact same spot.
“I drew a walk and stole second. Next day, I’m playing catch in the outfield and Nolan is doing his running, he goes by me and whispers ‘Hey kid ... way to compete last night.’”
UP IN THE BOOTH: Thornhill’s Dan Shulman was doing the broadcast for ESPN radio along with former New York Yankee Aaron Boone ... Former Blue Jays right-hander Jack Morris is doing work for MLB.com ... Fox TV aired an hour-long program recapping the seventh inning full from Game 5 of the AL Division Series. “The Unforgettable Inning” hosted by former pitcher CJ Nitkowski. Not all plays will be shown as it took 53 minutes to play the seventh and no doubt there were commercials. The Rangers went ahead by one and the Jays rallied for four, three on Bautista’s bat flip for the decade.
UPWARDLY MANAGER: Cambridge’s Scott Thorman managed the rookie-class Burlington Royals in the Kansas City system to a 31-37 record in the Appalachian League this season. Royals general manager Dayton Moore said Thorman did a “good job” and will manage next year.
J.J. Picollo, assistant GM said Thorman is managing the Royals advanced instructional league team in Phoenix. The Royals home base at Surprise is undergoing rennovations, so they have a new fall home.
“We’re one of six teams with two instructional league teams,” said Picollo. “Scott is managing the older team with players from class-A, double-A and triple-A.
“He had a very young team at Burlington, but he’s a high-energy manager. They had some six-game winning streaks and some six or seven game losing streaks. He’ll manage next year. We don’t know what team yet.”
A No. 1 pick by the Atlanta Braves in 2000, Thorman had Carlos Martinez, Kevin Kuntz and Jesus Azuaje as his coaches. Thorman played for the Ontario Blue Jays and Team Ontario.
NOT RETIRING: We wish people would stop referring to Jays president Paul Beeston’s departure as a retirement. Rogers Communications tried to boot him out the door at the end of last season and didn’t re-hire him for 2015 until Jan. 31. He is not retiring. He is being asked to leave.
STAT ATTACK: The ALCS feature two teams with the league’s best regular-season records the Royals (95–67) and Blue Jays (93–69) for the first time since 2009 when the New York Yankees (103-59) beat Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (97-65) in six games ... Jays led the majors in stolen-base percentage, swiping 88 bases (79% success rate), with centre fielder Kevin Pillar going 25-for-29 ... The Jays had 36 successful bunts this season, led by Ryan Goins with seven, followed by Ezequiel Carrera with five. Goins bunted Kevin Pillar to second base in the third inning.
HALL OF FAMER: Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu was honored by the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame last year with the ‘Pete Caldera/Duke Castiglione, I didn’t know he was Irish Award.’ The former Blue Jays bench coach and former Seattle Mariners manager has his 2015 all star lineup card from the AL dugout on display. He does all his lineup cards in calligraphy. The Irish American Hall is located inside Foley’s Pub & Restaurant (18 West 33rd St. in Manhattan, across from the Empire State Building).
Inductees include: Connie Mack, Tug McGraw, Mark McGwire, Sean Casey, Kevin Costner, Walter O’Malley, Steve Garvey, Vin Scully, Brian Cashman, Tim McCarver, Bob Murphy, Big Ed Walsh, John McGraw, “Wee Willie” Keeler, Gene Michael, Jimmy Breslin, Rusty Staub, Hal McCoy and Jack McKeon to mention a few.