TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Troy Tulowitzki took a called third strike in his first simulated game of spring training and followed with a drive down the right-field line that would have been over Yankee Stadium’s right-field wall.
“Honestly I feel good, ready to go,” he said. “Just excited to play.”
Now 34, the five-time All-Star has not played in the major leagues since July 2017. He is projected to start at shortstop for the New York Yankees while Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Tulowitzki missed last season because of bone spurs in his right and left heels.
“Taking a full year off was tough for me,” he said. “But I think it’s built some character, it’s built some toughness, and it makes you appreciate it that much more being out there. It’s been a long road. It’s took it’s toll but I’m still here standing.”
Gregorius is expected to return to the Yankees between June and August. Tulowitzki isn’t expressing worry about his role.
“I care about just doing the best job I can to fill in for Didi,” he said. “Things work themselves out.”
Tulowitzki topped .300 or better four times from 2010-14 and 90 RBIs from 2009-11, boosted by Colorado’s hitter-friendly Coors Field.
He agreed last month to a one-year contract with the Yankees for the major league minimum $555,000. That will be offset against the $20 million he is owed by Toronto, which released him. The Blue Jays also are responsible for $14 million in salary for 2020 plus a $4 million buyout of a 2021 team option.
“The question now for him is going to be the ability to bounce back and can he endure the rigors of being a regular,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He looks really good moving around in the field and where he’s at with his swing.”
Boone said a plan is in place for Tulowitzki until mid-March and that he will play consecutive days before the team breaks camp.
“The idea would be at some point middle of spring that we start to see some bounce back and that will kind of determine if he’s able to really be a regular,” Boone said.
Tulowitzki has a no-trade provision in his deal with the Yankees. He hopes to find success in New York.
“I’ve done a lot of things in my career,” Tulowitzki said. “The one thing that’s missing, I’ve been close, I haven’t won a ring.”
Greg Bird, slowed by injuries last year and trying to unseat Luke Voit at first base, also took part in the simulated game. The left-handed hitter had three at-bats, including a walk and pop fly off a southpaw. “I think he’s added some weight in a good way,” Boone said. “I think, clearly, he feels like he’s through some of the physical things that we’re holding him back a little last year.”