TORONTO -- Troy Tulowitzki hasn't appeared in a Major League game in well over a year, but whenever he eventually does return, the former All-Star is adamant it will be at shortstop.
Tulowitzki was ruled out for the year on Saturday morning. His feet were predictably slow to recover following a pair of surgical procedures to remove bone spurs in April, and the end result is another lost season.
The severity of Tulowitzki's injury, combined with the Blue Jays being in the midst of a rebuild, prompted some speculation that the former Gold Glove winner will eventually have to switch positions. According to Tulowitzki, that's not going to happen.
"My experience out there, I think proves that you don't have to be the quickest guy," Tulowitzki said Sunday. "It's all about reads, it's about knowing the game, it's about baseball smarts, it's about angles. There's a lot more that goes into playing shortstop than people think.
"I believe in my ability. I believe in the homework that I do, so without a doubt. And guess what? My heels aren't going to be hurting either and I played with my heels bothering me the last couple of years. I might even be better suited for the position as I get older."
Tulowitzki has two years and at least $38 million remaining on his contract. He's set to earn $20 million in 2019, $14 million in 2020 and there is a $4 million buyout for a $15-million club option in 2021. Contractually speaking, Tulowitzki remains a big part of the present, and the future, but the on-field outlook tells a different story.
The promising Bo Bichette is expected to be ready at some point midway through next year or the start of 2020. Toronto's No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline is considered the shortstop of the future and it seems like only a matter of when, not if, he takes over the position.
Then there's the emerging Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who still has some defensive issues to work through, but has received an extended look at shortstop while Tulowitzki has been on the disabled list. Add in Aledmys Diaz, Yangervis Solarte, Brandon Drury and Devon Travis, and the Blue Jays' middle infield gets complicated in a hurry.
Tulowitzki might not be changing positions, but he also doesn't seem too intimidated about who's coming behind him. If anything, he claims to embrace it.
"I would love for it to be a competition because that makes our team better," Tulowitzki said. "I've always said, since Day 1 that I stepped in the big leagues. I remember being a rookie, people thought I had no chance to make the team out of Spring Training, I had to beat out a veteran.
"I welcome competition. It really doesn't matter to me, you don't get to this point without competing. I don't make that decision. That's why we have coaches, that's why we have managers. They'll tell you what's going on."
The big question when Tulowitzki eventually comes back is how much will he have left? In his prime, Tulowitzki was one of the most dangerous hitters in the game, but in Toronto there has been more hype than production.
Tulowitzki was a key figure in Toronto's back-to-back appearances in the American League Championship Series in 2015-16. His value in October cannot be overstated, but in 238 regular season games for the Blue Jays he is slashing just .250/.313/.414. That's not close to the level it was in Colorado when he was considered the game's top shortstop.
The expectation remains that Tulowitzki will be Toronto's Opening Day shortstop in 2019. Everything beyond that remains uncertain. Well, almost everything.
"I just said I'm a shortstop. If someone is better than me, I'll pack my bags and go home," Tulowitzki said. "I do think I bring a lot more than what you guys see out there, too, and that's part of baseball. There's stuff behind the scenes that goes on, there are things that I try to help teammates with, I think I do bring a veteran leadership. Those things shouldn't go unnoticed."