Toronto slugger Bautista rewarded with $64 million deal

DUNEDIN, Florida (Reuters) - Jose Bautista, who led Major League Baseball with 54 home runs last season, agreed to a $64-million, five-year contract extension with the Toronto Blue Jays, the team said on Thursday.

The versatile Bautista is coming off a breakout year where he set a Blue Jays season record for home runs, led the major leagues in extra-base hits with 92, scored 109 runs and drove in 124.

Bautista, who played third base and in the outfield, said it was the happiest day of his life and he looked forward to bringing a World Series back to Toronto.

"I'm just really excited and ecstatic to wear the Blue Jays uniform, to play in Canada in front of our fans and represent the Dominican Republic and try to win more championships and bring them to the city of Toronto just like they were in the early '90s," Bautista said at a news conference.

Prior to 2010, the 30-year-old Dominican had never hit more than 16 home runs in a season and his increase of 41 homers over his 2009 total set a major league record for the largest single-season increase.

Blue Jays pitcher Ricky Romero, a 26-year-old left-hander who was 14-9 last season, was thrilled to see the run-producing Bautista locked into the Blue Jays lineup for the long run.

"You see how hard he works and how devoted he is to his job," Romero told reporters. "Last year was the first year where he really got to play for a whole year. The talent was always there, and now, after last year, he put it all together.

Bautista, whose contract includes a club option for the last year, was won the Hank Aaron Award for 2010 as the American League's top hitter.

(Writing by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Frank Pingue)