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Bautista’s bat not needed in Chicago White Sox series opener

The Blue Jays’ Melky Cabrera, left, and Jose Reyes celebrate after both scoring off an Adam Lind double against the Chicago White Sox in Toronto on Thursday.

Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Jose Bautista scans the box scores from the previous night's games a little more closely and he has noticed that the e-mail and text traffic on his cellphone is picking up.

The Blue Jays are garnering just a little bit more interest from both within Canada and the United States thanks to Toronto's continued perch atop the American League East standing which on Thursday reached 35 consecutive days.

While he has been on the sideline this past week nursing a sore hamstring, Bautista has been a key component to Toronto's rise to the top this season, both with his heavy bat and his continued solid defensive play in right field.

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Bautista, who hopes to return to the lineup this weekend in at least a pinch-hitting capacity, missed his fourth straight game on Thursday night at Rogers Centre, where the Blue Jays (45-36) still managed to roll over the mistake-prone Chicago White Sox (36-44) 7-0.

Not only is Bautista keeping a close eye on the standings but also on the power numbers that his fellow major-league associates are throwing up.

Earlier this week, Bautista was selected as the captain for the AL's home run derby team that will compete against the heavy hitters from the National League in the popular slugfest that is an annual feature during the All-Star break.

The event will be staged on July 14, the day before the All-Star Game at Target Field in Minnesota.

Big responsibility that as Bautista will be in charge of selecting the four other players who will join him to contest the hitting heavyweights from the NL, captained by Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies.

Since it was revealed that he would be calling the shots on who will be making the shots, Bautista said word has been getting through to him from players eager to join his team.

"Some guys have expressed their interest," Bautista said. "Not lobbied, but they have reached out to say that they're willing. That's great, and those guys are climbing to the top of the list right away."

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Bautista will not speculate about which names he might be favouring. They will not be revealed until after the rosters of the all-star teams are announced on July 6.

But one player who won't be in consideration is Edwin Encarnacion, Bautista's teammate who came into Thursday's game tied for first in the majors with 24 home runs and tied for second with 63 runs batted in.

Encarnacion has already flat-out stated that he has no desire to participate in the sideshow.

Bautista said he understands Encarnacion's reluctance.

He said he is more concerned that his teammate continues to lag about 1.2-million votes behind Nelson Cruz in the vote for the AL's designated hitter and might not even get to the game as a player.

"I'm surprised still that the fans haven't come out and supported him better," Bautista said.

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Toronto starter J.A. Happ (7-4) pitched a gem of a game, holding the White Sox off the scoreboard over 7 2/3-innings of work where he allowed just four hits and struck out eight.

Adam Lind knocked in three of the Toronto runs while Jose Reyes enjoyed a four-hit evening.

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