Blue Jays and Jose Bautista push back arbitration hearing to continue talking long-term extension

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The Blue Jays have bought themselves some extra time to work out a long-term contract extension with slugger Jose Bautista.

According to Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes, both sides agreed Monday to postpone a scheduled arbitration hearing until Friday so that extension talks can continue.

The extra four days might not matter. Bautista tallied a league-leading 54 home runs last year along with a stellar .995 OPS and 124 RBI. With free agency looming after the 2011 season, he’ll be asking for big money. The Blue Jays, at least to this point, have not been willing to buck up.

If a multi-year contract can’t be worked out over these next four days, the two sides will have to agree on a salary for 2011 either through the postponed Friday hearing or through a simple one-year agreement.

Bautista, 30, requested a $10.5 million salary for 2011 and was offered $7.6 million from the Blue Jays when arbitration figures were exchanged in January. He’s expected to start at the hot corner for Toronto this year.