Bautista plays 1,000th game for Blue Jays

Slugger ignited career in 2010, now in final year of contract

Bautista plays 1,000th game for Blue Jays

ARLINGTON -- Jose Bautista has been the face of the Blue Jays since 2010, and on Saturday night, he became the 11th player to appear in 1,000 games for the club.

Bautista ranks second all-time with 249 home runs in a Toronto uniform (Carlos Delgado hit 336), and he's fifth in RBIs, with 654. He also ranks third in OPS (.916), second in walks (662), fifth in runs (652) and 12th in hits (912).

It has been quite a run for the six-time All-Star, and no matter what happens with the pending free agent this offseason, his name will be all over the Toronto record books for years to come.

"It's a fun moment and hopefully not one of the last games that I have to play as a member of the team," Bautista said. "It speaks a lot about my time here and how long it has been, even though it feels like it was only yesterday that I was traded here. And also the success that I can't help but focus on every time I think about this franchise. I enjoy my time here, and hopefully it doesn't come to an end."

Former general manager J.P. Ricciardi deserves the credit for pulling off one of the most lopsided deals in franchise history. He dealt catcher Robinzon Diaz to the Pirates during the 2008 season for Bautista, but it's safe to say Ricciardi never envisioned this kind of outcome.

Diaz went on to appear in just 44 games at the big league level over two seasons, while Bautista will go down as one of the best sluggers of his generation. Bautista tweaked his mechanics at the plate with the help of former manager Cito Gaston and former hitting coach Dwayne Murphy.

The group worked together to implement Bautista's now infamous leg kick, and he never looked back. Bautista jumped from 13 home runs in 2009 to a franchise-record 54 in '10. Former GM Alex Anthopoulos rewarded Bautista after that season with a rather controversial five-year contract worth $65 million, which included a team option for 2016.

There were no shortage of critics on the deal, with many people labeling Bautista as a one-year wonder. Nobody is saying that anymore.

"A guy who finally found it when he came here," Blue Jays manager John Gibbsons said. "He bounced around. Shoot, he has been huge for this organization. He has been a star player. For the longest time, too, that when you hear 'Blue Jays' he's naturally the guy who comes to mind. He's had a tremendous career here. It's fun watching."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.