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Tulo savors first homer in pinstripes

Facing former club, shortstop goes deep in first at-bat
@BryanHoch
February 25, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. -- Troy Tulowitzki pumped his right fist and shouted as his sprint slowed to a jog, having slugged a home run in his first at-bat wearing a Yankees uniform. That the blast came against the Blue Jays, a team that paid him $38 million to go home, made

TAMPA, Fla. -- Troy Tulowitzki pumped his right fist and shouted as his sprint slowed to a jog, having slugged a home run in his first at-bat wearing a Yankees uniform. That the blast came against the Blue Jays, a team that paid him $38 million to go home, made the moment even sweeter.

The Yankees' 3-0 Grapefruit League victory on Monday at George M. Steinbrenner Field represented more than an exhibition for the 34-year-old, who is attempting to prove that he still belongs on a big league diamond after missing the last 1 1/2 seasons with heel and ankle injuries.

"There were a lot of people that said, 'Forget about it,'" Tulowitzki said. "Those people said I would never make it back on a baseball field again. For me, it was extra emotion. It was the biggest Spring Training homer I ever hit. Yeah, I got a little pumped out there. Anybody who tells you, 'You are done,' you are going to have a little extra fire."

Released by the Blue Jays in December, Tulowitzki's homer came on the second pitch that he saw from right-hander Marcus Stroman, producing an opposite-field poke that cleared the 314-foot marker in right field. Tulowitzki finished the afternoon 1-for-2, adding some solid defensive plays.

"He's had that edge to him, something to prove, since the first day we put eyes on him this winter in the workout sessions," manager Aaron Boone said. "We're a long way from this thing playing out and seeing how he responds to everything, but the one thing we know is we've been looking at a healthy player."

Having witnessed some of Tulowitzki's rehab, Stroman said that he was "ecstatic" to see Tulowitzki again swinging the bat with authority.

"That's my guy," Stroman said. "It's not going to happen in-season, I promise you that. I started him off with a curveball just to mess around and he hit a sinker away pretty good. That's baseball. ... I know how tough it has been for him the last few years, so to see him back there with full health is really exciting."

Tulowitzki found additional motivation within the crowd of 8,893: his 5-year-old son, Taz, whom Tulowitzki said doesn't recall seeing his dad play for Toronto.

"He was three the last time he was watching games. He doesn't remember that," Tulowitzki said. "To get back out there and have him see me again, that's probably what I thought about each and every day."

Looking sharp

Counting the minutes until he was due in the bullpen to warm up, James Paxton buttoned the front of his pinstriped jersey with No. 65 on the back and allowed himself an additional beat. He wanted to savor that moment.

"I was really excited going in," Paxton said. "Wearing the pinstripes for the first time, I was nervous, excited, all that stuff. It was good to feel that feeling for the first time this season and it was a good place to start."

Paxton worked two scoreless innings, walking two with two strikeouts. Those free passes were the only ones allowed by the Yankees all afternoon, as Paxton, Domingo Germán , Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Phillip Diehl and Jonathan Holder combined for nine innings of one-hit ball with 10 strikeouts.

"My goal was to throw a lot of strikes," Paxton said. "I did a better job of that in the second inning. I wanted to see where I was with my timing. With the added adrenaline, I wanted to feel where my body was, and I feel like I made the adjustment from the first inning to the second inning to slow things down and get everything online."

Family affair

Simulated games typically involve a pitcher, catcher, batter and thousands of unoccupied seats, but Danny Farquhar enjoyed a cheering section when he took the mound at Steinbrenner Field on Sunday morning. His wife, Lexie, and their children were granted access to the closed ballpark, watching the hurler continue his recovery from a brain hemorrhage suffered last April.

"It meant a lot," Farquhar said. "I asked my wife if it was OK if she went, and she was like, 'I would love to go.' She wanted to be part of it. It made it more special. They've been my support system the whole way. They're always with me, but they've never shown up to a sim game before. I loved seeing them in the empty stadium. They were easy to find."

With Madison (7), Landon (3) and Liam (1) chasing foul balls, Farquhar pitched to non-roster invitees Francisco Diaz and Giovanny Urshela, recording two strikeouts, a walk and what likely would have been a fly out.

"One step closer to playing in a baseball game," Farquhar said. "Honestly, it felt like normal. It was like riding a bike. I threw lots of high fastballs, [and] they were underneath it. I threw some good changeups, [and] they were over the top of those. I threw some good first-pitch curveballs that they didn't swing at. I just have to keep doing that."

Bombers bits

Miguel Andújar (flu-like symptoms) and Brett Gardner (ingrown toenail) were held out of Monday's home opener. Boone said that he expects Gardner to play on Tuesday against the Phillies, but he was less certain about Andujar.

Albert Abreu is scheduled to start on Wednesday against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., to be followed by J.A. Happ on Thursday against the Pirates at Steinbrenner Field. Luis Severino has been scheduled to throw in a simulated game on Thursday, after which he would join the rotation.

Up next

Masahiro Tanaka will be on the mound for the Yankees on Tuesday as they host the Phillies for a 1:05 p.m. ET contest at Steinbrenner Field. Ranger Suarez draws the start for Philadelphia. The game will air live on MLB.TV.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.