DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays intend to take a "conservative" approach with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki because of a chronic condition in his right heel that has resulted in a "flared up" bone spur.Tulowitzki has dealt with this issue before in his career, but it became a bigger problem this
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays intend to take a "conservative" approach with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki because of a chronic condition in his right heel that has resulted in a "flared up" bone spur.
Tulowitzki has dealt with this issue before in his career, but it became a bigger problem this offseason while he was rehabbing a severely sprained right ankle. Now, there's a chance he could miss the start of Spring Training.
Position players are scheduled to report on Sunday for their physicals, with the first full-squad workout set for Monday. The Blue Jays continue to insist that surgery is not required, and they expect Tulowitzki will be ready for Opening Day.
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"It's a chronic issue that arose from the ankle sprain and the procedure that he had done prior to that," general manager Ross Atkins said. "It was a mild aggravation that we did not initially anticipate to impact Spring Training, and I think given the information that we have today, could have a subtle impact on that. What we know today is that we hope he'll be our Opening Day shortstop, and we'll do everything we can to help him get over that aggravation."
Despite what the club is saying publicly, Tulowitzki's situation has to be concerning, especially because second baseman Devon Travis is still working his way back from knee surgery. Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte were acquired for this purpose, and the duo will likely have no shortage of opportunities in 2018, despite being labeled as utility players.
Toronto has been down this road plenty of times before. Tulowitzki and Travis have each missed significant periods of time over the past three seasons. Unlike previous years, though, the Blue Jays have suitable depth and there should not be as big of a drop in production when their bench players are on the field.
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In 2017, Ryan Goins posted a meager .643 OPS over 418 at-bats in 143 games. Darwin Barney had a .602 OPS over 336 at-bats in 129 games. In Solarte and Diaz, the Blue Jays have a pair of infielders who each posted an OPS above .800 in '16. Toronto's preference is to still use Travis and Tulowitzki up the middle, but at least there's added insurance for when that's not possible.
Solarte and Diaz will battle it out this spring for playing time. Diaz is the natural favorite to replace Tulowitzki at shortstop when necessary. The 27-year-old started 168 games at shortstop for the Cardinals over the past two years, and it is his natural position. Solarte can play shortstop, too, but he has more experience elsewhere and will likely be the favorite to back up second and third base. But they aren't the only options.
"I think a lot of people haven't mentioned Richard Urena," Atkins said. "Urena has proven he can play defense at the Major League level, and has shown flashes of being competitive offensively. I love how aggressive he is as a baserunner. We're excited about the addition of Mpho' Ngoepe as well. I think, much like starting pitching, it's hard to have enough depth in the middle infield, and the more of that, the better."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.