NEW YORK -- Troy Tulowitzki appeared to have a clear path toward a Hall of Fame trajectory before injuries interrupted his promising career, and as he prepares for a new opportunity with the Yankees, the shortstop is intent upon proving that he can still be a special performer between the
NEW YORK -- Troy Tulowitzki appeared to have a clear path toward a Hall of Fame trajectory before injuries interrupted his promising career, and as he prepares for a new opportunity with the Yankees, the shortstop is intent upon proving that he can still be a special performer between the white lines.
"There's some extra motivation, with what I've been through," Tulowitzki said on Monday. "I think a lot of people have written me off and said at times that I was done. I think all this has really made me stronger, made me appreciate the game more than ever. I've put in a lot of work to put myself into a position to have this opportunity. There's a chip on my shoulder."
With Didi Gregorius recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Yankees are committed to providing the 34-year-old Tulowitzki with a chance to serve as their shortstop on Opening Day and beyond.
Though Tulowitzki has not played in a Major League game since July 28, 2017, due to ankle and foot injuries, general manager Brian Cashman was swayed by footage from Tulowitzki's workouts at Long Beach State University in California, where he held showcases for interested clubs following his December release from the Blue Jays.
"There were a lot of teams interested," Tulowitzki said. "I wanted to remain a shortstop, and I wanted to play with a contender. The Yankees fit both those needs, so it was really a good match."
The Yanks remain engaged with the representatives for superstar Manny Machado, having hosted the free agent for a Yankee Stadium visit and Manhattan dinner on Dec. 19, but Cashman has said that he would be comfortable going forward with the infield as presently constructed.
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If the season were to begin now, Cashman said that the Yankees' intent would be to set the infield with Tulowitzki at shortstop, Gleyber Torres at second base, Miguel Andujar at third base and Luke Voit at first base. For what it's worth, Tulowitzki said that he would welcome Machado's arrival in The Bronx.
"I signed up to be a Yankee because I wanted to play with the best players, so if Manny is one of those guys, then I think that would be awesome," Tulowitzki said. "It would make the team that much stronger. But those are questions that Brian can answer better than me."
Tulowitzki's addition comes at little risk for the Yanks, who will pay him only the league minimum of $555,000, though they did provide Tulowitzki with a no-trade clause. Toronto remains on the hook for approximately $38 million due to Tulowitzki, some of which will be deferred.
A five-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove Award winner and two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, Tulowitzki said that he understands that his time at shortstop could be temporary. Gregorius underwent surgery shortly after the season and is expected to return sometime between June and August.
"A lot can happen in that time," Tulowitzki said. "Obviously, I want Didi to be back out on the field. He's a heck of a player, I respect him, I've played against him on many occasions. But at the same time, I have a job to do, and that's to play shortstop and help us win games. When that time comes, we'll deal with that."
Tulowitzki made his big league debut with the Rockies as a 21-year-old in 2006 and developed into one of the game's top all-around players, compiling a .299/.371/.513 slash line with 188 homers and 657 RBIs in 1,048 games with Colorado.
The Blue Jays acquired Tulowitzki prior to the 2015 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but his performance did not live up to the previous pedigree. He finished with a .250/.313/.414 slash line and appeared in just 238 games for Toronto over almost three and a half seasons.
"[The heel pain] started right around time I got traded to Toronto," Tulowitzki said. "I turned a corner when the season ended last year. I really started feeling like myself again and like I was headed in the right direction. I remember at the All-Star break last year, I was still coming back and rehabbing and not feeling quite right. Right around the end of the year, I was watching the playoffs, and I started saying, 'Oh man, I'm feeling a lot better, and I'm getting excited about the upcoming year.'"
Tulowitzki has worn No. 2 through his entire big league career in honor of Derek Jeter, even attending a 2014 Yankees home game from the seats to pay homage during the captain's final season. He said that it has yet to be determined which number he would wear with the Yanks. No. 12, currently assigned to infielder Tyler Wade, seems to be a possibility.
"The first thing I think about when I think of Derek is his presence, on and off the field," Tulowitzki said. "He was solid, a professional and a winner. Those are things that I appreciate the most about him. He played the game to win and he did that with his teams, and off the field he took care of his business. I really appreciated how he went about his business."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.