NEW YORK -- In a season of opportunities for many of the organization’s young players, this year has been a learning experience for Rowdy Tellez.
The 24-year-old Blue Jays first baseman made a strong impression in his first 23 games in the Majors at the end of last year, hitting .314/.329/.614 with four home runs and nine doubles, but Tellez has since found that he isn’t adjusting to big league pitching as quickly as it has to him. As a result, he was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo after Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Yankees.
“This year for me is a big learning year,” Tellez said before the All-Star break. “Last year, I came in and I think I really showed a lot of people what I could do, and this year I think I’ve been exploited a little bit by some of the pitchers. So I need to be better. Everybody’s the best of the best up here, so there’s no time for days off.”
This season, the left-handed hitter has seen action in 78 games, slashing .227/.280/.436 with 14 home runs, 13 doubles and 40 RBIs. Tellez has also walked 17 times and racked up 83 strikeouts, which is where some of his focus will be when he joins the Bisons.
“There are multiple things,” Tellez said. “Probably just getting better at recognizing pitches, not striking out as much as I am right now. Consistent work, consistent at-bats, and taking everything that I do as a positive and not being upset about what’s going on.
“It’s one of those things that happens when you’re struggling. They’ve got to make moves, they’ve got to make the team better. It was one of those things where it’s my time to go down there and better myself and polish off my game and get back to the player that I was. I’m taking this as a learning experience and just going to use it to fuel the fire.”
Tellez has spent much of his time in the Majors trying to concentrate on any and all of the positives that come his way. The California native feels as though his perspective has taken a sharp shift over the last several months, after reaching rock bottom when his mother Lori lost her battle with cancer in August, offering him the understanding that there’s more to life than facing difficulties on the field.
“When I was younger, I used to hold onto things and I was pretty angry after games if I did poorly,” Tellez said. “But now, after how I watched my mom die, I know it could always be worse. I could always be in a worse situation than I’m in now so there’s no point in holding onto it throughout the day.
“It’s helped me knowing that it could always be worse still. Knowing that I play for a bigger purpose. It’s not just about the game. A lot of people would do anything to be in my shoes, so I’d rather just be grateful that I’ve been given this opportunity to play at the highest level and achieve my dreams.”
The rookie slugger will look for his next opportunity in Buffalo, where he will get the chance to play every day, and he’ll have more consistent at-bats than he did with Toronto.
“His approach needs to get better,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “That’s it. He’s got all the tools to play in the big leagues for a long time. He’s got power, as everyone knows, so we want him to get more at-bats and get that approach ready and come back.”
No matter his role, Tellez wants to get to the point where he can consistently contribute anywhere in the lineup, and at any time he is called upon.
“It’s tough when you’re facing the best arms in the world and you’re not getting consistent at-bats, going in there every other day or here and there,” Tellez said. “But I have to be better overall whether that’s part of my game or not. It’s the big leagues. They need the best of the best; I was kind of failing at that.”