Joey Bats flashes leather during start at 3B

Slugger mans hot corner in Interleague series opener vs. Brewers

Joey Bats flashes leather during start at 3B

MILWAUKEE -- Jose Bautista hadn't manned third base for nine innings in four years, but when he made the start there against the Brewers on Tuesday night, it seemed like a natural fit.

Bautista made two key defensive plays, tallied two hits and drew a walk in the Blue Jays' 4-3 win in Game 1 of a two-game Interleague set at Miller Park.

"No complaints. Had some plays, was able to get some outs. It was a good day at the ballpark," Bautista said. "I'm glad it seemed comfortable. It's not that I was uncomfortable, but you know, after not playing in that position for a while, you never know what you're going to get. Like I said earlier, I'm just glad I made the plays."

The six-time All-Star flashed some leather in the second inning, turning a Manny Pina ground ball into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play. He robbed Pina again with a tough defensive play in the sixth, diving to make a nice stop and hurling the ball to first base in time for the out.

"I thought he was great there. That one double play was really nice. But you know, he came up an infielder," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "[Russell Martin] came up an infielder in the Dodgers' organization. They're far removed from that, so you're worried about that, but you know what, they can do the job."

Bautista's diving stop at third

The Blue Jays turned to Bautista to fill the void at third with Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki on the 10-day DL, Darwin Barney nursing a tight hamstring, as well as the loss of the designated hitter in a National League ballpark. Barney returned to third base in the eighth inning on Tuesday, moving Bautista to right field.

Bautista's biggest adjustment was managing the quicker tempo that comes with playing in the infield.

"You have less time to react. That's about it," Bautista said. "I have enough repetitions that it doesn't seem foreign to me, but it takes a while to adjust to the tempo of it. Luckily, I didn't have any rockets hit my way today."

Gibbons' other option at third was Chris Coghlan, but the manager said, "We've been tossing things around, and Coghlan is a natural outfielder."

"Bautista, I think he can do it," Gibbons said before the game. "Just having fun with it. It's just kind of maximizing what Coghlan is doing. I think Jose likes it, too. It's a little change of pace."

Bautista had played third base in a pair of games this season, most recently moving from right field to third for the last two innings of Saturday's loss to the Orioles. The first time, like Tuesday, was an Interleague game in a National League park -- Bautista played third after pinch-hitting in the seventh inning on April 27 in St. Louis.

But the last time the 36-year-old started at the hot corner was on April 14, 2013, against the Royals, the final of three appearances he made at third base that season. He didn't play third again until the April 27 game in St. Louis.

Bautista has logged more than 3,000 innings at third base in his career, but he hasn't played significant innings at the position in any season since 2011, when he was at third for just over 200 innings.

The majority of Bautista's action this year has come in right field, his longtime primary position, and at designated hitter, which, of course, is not an option in Milwaukee.

Carson Mason is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.