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Tulo all smiles in Spring Training debut

Blue Jays planned to ease star shortstop back into action
Special to MLB.com

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Troy Tulowitzki was hitless in two plate appearances on Sunday against the Rays. But that didn't stop the veteran Blue Jays shortstop from smiling after his day was done.

More than four months after Toronto's season concluded with a defeat in the American League Championship Series for the second consecutive season, Tulowitzki made his Grapefruit League debut in front of a home crowd in a 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Troy Tulowitzki was hitless in two plate appearances on Sunday against the Rays. But that didn't stop the veteran Blue Jays shortstop from smiling after his day was done.

More than four months after Toronto's season concluded with a defeat in the American League Championship Series for the second consecutive season, Tulowitzki made his Grapefruit League debut in front of a home crowd in a 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

"I hadn't been on the field in a long time," Tulowitzki said, "so it was nice to get out there and be back with some of the guys. ... It was fun."

The five-time All-Star said the late start has been part of a plan by manager John Gibbons to ease in some of the more seasoned players for Opening Day with Spring Training lengthened by the World Baseball Classic.

"It's pretty natural," Tulowitzki said. "When you're playing, you start to build a routine. You start to know what works best for you in Spring Training, and if you feel like you need more [at-bats], then you go to the manager and tell him, or if you feel like you need more innings. It'll be based off how I feel, not necessarily off results."

Tulowitzki, who enters his 12th big league season in 2017, hit .254 with 24 home runs and 79 RBIs for the Blue Jays last season. He missed some time in '16 with a small fracture in his right thumb.

After an off-day on Monday, Tulowitzki expects to be back in the lineup on Tuesday against Team Canada in a Classic exhibition. As far as the regular season is concerned, he is confident he will be ready on cue.

"Once it gets closer, then you want everything to be taken care of," Tulowitzki said. "We'll go to Montreal [to close the spring]. After that, I'll be ready to go and continue, honestly, what I come here every day to do: To try to be a good teammate to these guys, help as many guys as I possibly can and go about my business."

Jeff Odom is a contributor to MLB.com.

Toronto Blue Jays, Troy Tulowitzki