When veteran infielder Troy Tulowitzki was introduced as the Yankees’ stopgap shortstop in early January, the possibility of superstar free agent Manny Machado walking through the clubhouse doors and claiming the starting job at short was still, to some degree, realistic.
But that ship has now sailed.
One less thing for Tulowitzki to worry about.
The Machado saga finally came to an end on Tuesday afternoon, as the 26-year-old infielder reportedly agreed to a record-breaking 10-year, $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres. Consequently, there are no longer any doubts as to who the Yankees want playing shortstop while Didi Gregorius recovers from offseason Tommy John surgery.
“I am worried more about just doing the best job I can, filling in for Didi,” Tulowitzki told reporters on Wednesday at the George M. Steinbrenner Field complex in Tampa. “Things work themselves out. I just want to do whatever I can to help this team win… Didi is a great player, I continued to say that. I like watching him from the other side. He’s come a long way since I was playing against him in Arizona… I hope he has a quick recovery, but for myself, a job in front of me and I want to do it to the best of my ability.”
Speaking of ability, does Tulowitzki still have the ability to play regularly in the majors?
At this point, who knows.
Tulowitzki missed the entire 2018 season following surgeries to remove bone spurs in both of his heels. In mid-December, he was unexpectedly cut by the Blue Jays, who still owe him $38 million across the next two seasons. A five-time All-Star who was viewed as one of baseball’s premier shortstops, Tulowitzki has appeared in just 66 games since the beginning of 2017.
Despite Tulowitzki’s injury history, the Yankees were intrigued by his availability, great potential upside, and more importantly, his extremely low cost. After watching Tulowitzki during a private workout held in Southern California, the Yankees signed him to a one-year, league-minimum ($550,000) contract with a full no-trade clause.
“I love this game so much. I’ve been just kind a gym rat of baseball,” Tulowitzki said. “I love being in the cage, love being around baseball. Taking a year off was tough for me. I think it’s built some character, it’s built some toughness and makes you appreciate it that much more.”
The Yankees will play their first Grapefruit League exhibition game on Saturday in Fort Myers against the defending champion Red Sox. According to Yankees manager Aaron Boone, the team plans to ease Tulowitzki back into action.
“We feel like he’s in a good place and over some of the injuries that really plagued him over the last year and a half, two years,’’ Boone said during his spring training opening press conference last week. “We’ll try to be vigilant as far as how his schedule goes and obviously communicating with him. We’ll develop a plan that kind of evolves a little bit.
“We’ll see how he bounces back… If there are health issues, we feel comfortable moving Gleyber [Torres] over to shortstop. We feel really comfortable from a depth standpoint, but as we sit here right now, we feel optimistic with what Troy is gonna bring. We’ll try to protect him in spring training, but even early in the season with not overdoing it too much, even if things are going very well.’’
Boone also mentioned on Wednesday that Tulowitzki will train exclusively as a shortstop during camp.
“I am still here standing and I feel good,” Tulowitzki said. “I can’t wait to prove myself.”
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