Jose Bautista could join Braves before much longer

The Jose Bautista-to-Atlanta train is picking up steam less than a week after the Braves signed the former All-Star slugger to a minor league deal.

Bautista went 1-for-4 with a double and a walk in his second game with high Single-A Florida on Sunday and will join Triple-A Gwinnett on Monday for its doubleheader at Rochester, N.Y. Braves manager Brian Snitker said Bautista would play third base in one game of the doubleheader and serve as designated hitter in the other.

Bautista, 37, was 2-for-7 with a double, two walks and no strikeouts for Florida, joining the team after just a couple of days of workouts at the Braves’ spring-training facility in Florida.

The Braves signed him to a minor league deal Tuesday that will pay a prorated salary of $1 million if he makes the major league team, which is looking more likely by the day.

It’s possible Bautista could join the Braves at some point during a three-city, 10-game trip that starts Monday in Cincinnati, though the team has given no timetable.

“Reports have been good,” Snitker said. “Seitz (hitting coach Kevin Seitzer) watched his at-bats and I’ve been talking to (Braves minor league infield coordinator) Adam Everett. The reports are really good – defensively, offensively, how he’s playing the game, the shape he’s in. That kind of blows everybody away, that he’s in such good baseball shape.

“I think it’s just a matter of timing and probably getting him to Triple-A, seeing the little-better pitching. But like I say, the reports are really good.”

The Braves signed Bautista to play third base, but general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Snitker would be free to play him at first base or in the outfield, wherever he can help the team.

Bautista turned down a higher offer to sign with another organization, reportedly the Indians, opting instead to reunite with Anthopoulos, his former general manager with the Blue Jays. He also worked with Seitzer in 2014 when Seitzer was Toronto’s hitting coach.

Bautista hit 22 or more homers in eight consecutive seasons for the Blue Jays through 2017, including American League-leading totals of 54 homers in 2010 and 43 in 2011, the year he led the AL in RBIs (132), slugging percentage (.608) and OPS (1.056) while batting .302 with a .447 OBP to finish third in the league MVP balloting.

The 14-year veteran was an All-Star for six consecutive seasons through 2015 before seeing his average and OPS decline to .234 and .817 in 2016 and .203/.674 in 2017. Bautista played almost exclusively in the outfield during the past three seasons but has 349 career starts at third base and 16 starts at first base.