Jose Bautista's derby connection

Updated: July 11, 2011, 1:51 PM ET
By Buster Olney

Alex Andreopoulos was in the Blue Jays' clubhouse waiting out a rain delay the other day, and Jose Bautista walked over to him with a request. "It'd be great," Bautista said, "if you came out to the All-Star Game to throw batting practice."

As in, in the Home Run Derby.

Andreopoulos had one detail to clean up before finalizing his plans: On Tuesday, during the All-Star break, he was committed to attend the soccer game of his 7-year-old daughter Zoe. So with help from the Blue Jays' traveling secretary, Andreopoulos arranged a red-eye from Phoenix, through Chicago. He will be on the mound today, when Bautista takes his turn in the Home Run Derby, and if his travel goes well, he will be at Zoe's soccer game.

Andreopoulos -- the Jays' bullpen catcher who often mistakenly receives the mail of Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos -- has been throwing to the second group in Toronto's batting practice the past couple of years, which means he's been the guy who throws to Bautista on a daily basis. "He likes it middle in, right at the belt," Andreopoulos said. "His bat just flies through; it just whips through."

Bautista, like most players, has a regular batting practice routine, and what Bautista does, from round to round, is aim the ball to particular fields -- to right, to left, to center.

Andreopoulos was a catcher in the minor leagues for eight years, going as far as Triple-A, and when he finished he called J.P. Ricciardi, then the GM of the Blue Jays, and asked about a job; it just so happened that Toronto had just fired its bullpen catcher.

This is his ninth season as the Toronto bullpen catcher. Right after Bautista picked him to throw batting practice, some of the Jays' players began teasing him. "The guys are busting my chops, saying stuff like, 'Don't hit him,' 'You better throw strikes,' that kind of thing," Andreopoulos said.

He does not think he will be nervous, figuring that once he gets on the field and starts working up a sweat, all the anxiety will dissipate. Which would be good for Bautista, because as we've seen year after year after year with the Home Run Derby, the hitters are only as good as the guy who is pitching to them.


• Presumably, there will be discussion within Major League Baseball about how to deal with the many players who are dropping out of the All-Star competition. The players like the honor of being named but they don't like to play.