TAMPA, Florida – Troy Tulowitzki spent a lot of time in baseball last year due to ankle and heel injuries. A team has regularly attracted the eye.
"I've seen this team a lot," Tulowitzki said of his current employer, the New York Yankees. "They played good baseball, were a bit short, I want to help them finish with a championship."
As the Yankees headed for a 2018 season of 100 wins that ended in a defeat of the American League Division against the The Boston Red Sox, Tulowitzki, then a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, was in rehabilitation after surgery on the heels and started having ankle problems in 2017.
Now he is completely healed. After seeing Tulowitzki perform two training sessions near his home in California during the off-season, the Yankees signed him in January for a one-year minimum contract.
"Taking a full year has been difficult for me," Tulowitzki said. "But I think it built character, hardness and that makes you appreciate it even more than you are there."
Foot, ankle and heel injuries being far behind him, the five-time All Star declared that he was finally ready to contribute again.
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Aaron Judge says that he has fully benefited from a healthy off season, working on his momentum and improving his approach. The judge missed eight weeks last season with a wrist injury but says he's 100% and "feels like nothing has ever happened".
"I can not wait to prove myself," Tulowitzki said.
He gave a glimpse of that Wednesday afternoon when he presented an impressive show of kicks in his first rounds of stick training at the Yankees spring training camp at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Tulowitzki sent several flying balloons to the left and right ground walls. At least once, one of his shots erased the huge dashboard looming beyond the fence of the left field.
"We hired a player in good health, which is why we brought him here, because we did his due diligence on his position," said the manager. Yankees, Aaron Boone. "So we knew that he was physically arriving in a very good place.The question that arises now will be how to bounce back, and can he stand up to the rigors of a regular?"
While the Yankees continue to operate without Didi Gregorius – probably during the first half of the season – while he is recovering from an operation undergone by Tommy John, Tulowitzki may have to be a mainstay of the Yankees battlefield . The Bronx Bombers could also move Gleyber Torres off the second base sometimes to help justify Gregorius' absence.
Once Gregorius returns, the Yankees may need to be creative about Tulowitzki's playing frequency.
"We are going to prepare Tulo as he is ready to play in shortstop.We will not look at him at another position during the spring training," said Boone. "If we talk about it for a few months in the season and Didi comes back and we have these kinds of questions or problems, we're probably in a very good position."
In the meantime, this spring's short-term plan is to allow Tulowitzki to take action. Boone said the 34-year-old veteran would not likely be in the first two games of the Yankees grapefruit league, two long road trips to the Red Sox and Rays' spring training centers.
Tulowitzki hopes that her shoes of choice will play a role, even minor, in the health of her health this season. For the first time in his career, he will wear a pair of LeBron James shoes. He has a pair of 15-year-old LeBron crampon shoes that he says are comfortable and have the level of padding and protection he needs for heels and ankles.
The 14-year-old was so determined to make the Bronx his home league this year that he agreed to have a no-trade clause in his very short contract. Four years ago, he had the unique job of his career, moving from Colorado to Toronto.
"It means something to me: get involved in a team and not go anywhere else," Tulowitzki said. "I want to be here, I want to be here a long time, and it was important for me to have it there."