When I first joined Toronto, there wasn't an everyday position for me. But when Alex Rios and Scott Rolen left, our manager, Cito Gaston, told me to take advantage of the opportunity. He said he believed in me and that I needed to trust my abilities. He also noticed some things about my hitting and told me we were going to work on it.
Everything has happened just as he said it would, and now we're seeing the results.
Cito, of course, has had a lot of success as a manager at this level. He knows the game inside and out. He knows our division and our league well. He has a good eye for talent when it comes to players, and he knows how to match up. All good managers need good players, and he's had good players over the years, too.
But I think Cito has also helped elevate some of his clubs. That's a testament to him as a manager -- the fact that he's been able to have success while not always having the best talent.
Last year, Cito made a change and put me in the leadoff position. I had little experience in that role before -- hitting leadoff in 2006 for a few months with the Pirates. I think it is a spot in the lineup that works well for me. I'm aggressive. I go up to the plate looking for a pitch to hit. But I also have enough patience to take a pitch if it is not in my spot.
My career has not always been marked by home runs. When I was first coming up, I didn't hit a home run until my third season. But that's too early to make judgments about a player's power. You have to remember I was a Rule 5 guy, and my first 60 or so games I was coming straight out of Class A ball and used mostly as a pinch-hitter.
I also had a broken hand that affected me for another 150 or so at-bats, so you need to have all the information about a player to make those kinds of judgments. Once I started to play regularly, things started to change. I came up in May 2006, after an injury to Joe Randa, and I hit 16 home runs in less than 120 games and 400 at-bats.
A team's approach -- its philosophy on hitting and the lineup -- can also have a major effect on a player's power numbers. When you're in the National League, hitting eighth in front of the pitcher or in the second spot, you don't have a lot of opportunities to try and drive the ball. There's a lot more bunting involved, a lot more attempts to move a runner over. It's not like the American League where it is more about trying to hit a ball hard. Different styles of playing, different scenarios, can lead to different results.
This year's power didn't come out of nowhere. I began to get a feel for what we've been working at the end of last season. All of the work in my hitting sessions began to click, and I finished the season strong. I reinforced that success in winter ball and again in the spring. I was able to hit the ground running this year.
Needless to say, I'm enjoying the success this season. It seems like the 2004 season -- when I played for five different teams -- was a lifetime ago.
Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista leads the Majors with 36 home runs, including 12 since the All-Star break.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.