DUNEDIN, Fla. – There’s a normalcy to being with the Toronto Blue Jays now that’s making Troy Tulowitzki feel more comfortable this spring than he did last year following his acquisition from the Colorado Rockies.
The stunning trade, coming after assurances he wouldn’t be moved, turned his world upside down, and after the Game 6 loss to the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series, he told a small group of reporters that parachuting into another club’s season made it hard to feel settled.
Some four months later, with time to properly digest the changes both professionally and personally, and deepen the friendships he developed during a frenzied run to an AL East crown, the all-star shortstop is home.
“Coming to spring training and knowing the coaches and the organization a little bit and some of my teammates has definitely made this transition a little bit easier. So, that’s nice,” he said during an interview on a stormy Wednesday. “I made it known a couple times that (the transition last year) wasn’t that easy just because I’d been in Colorado so long. But now that I look back at it, I’m a firm believer that things do happen for a reason, and I’m definitely happy to be here and I can’t wait to start the year.”
Among the things Tulowitzki is looking forward to is a break from the trade rumours that dogged him during his final seasons with the rebuilding Rockies, who gave him a $157.75-million, 10-year extension in 2010. Former general manager Alex Anthopoulos managed to pry him and now retired reliever LaTroy Hawkins away for pitching prospects Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco plus shortstop Jose Reyes, a turn of events Tulowitzki said last October made it “tough for me now to trust anybody in this game.”
Then came the front-office turnover in Toronto, as Anthopoulos left just as Mark Shapiro took over from Paul Beeston as president, leading to the hire of Ross Atkins as general manager.
“You know what the game is about, anything can happen at any point in time, but I did find it a little awkward that Alex was the guy who came and got me and then talking about things we were going to do here in the long haul and how this organization is going to run,” said Tulowitzki. “Then all of a sudden he goes off somewhere else, but it wasn’t by his choice, I don’t think, obviously things didn’t work out. I think we’re in good hands with the new people running the organization. Bottom line, the people in this locker-room here, the players, is what is going to win us games.”
How long this group remains together beyond 2016 has been a focal point so far this spring, as the Blue Jays have 10 pending free agents including franchise cornerstones Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. But while there is longer-term uncertainty, in Tulowitzki’s eyes that’s not all negative, either.
“It will be interesting, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “We can really use it to benefit us because sometimes you get a little bit more from them because they are hitting the market, and I think that’s going to be the case with some of these guys.
“They’re going to have some big years because they know what’s at stake.”
Regardless, Tulowitzki will play a pivotal role in the team’s fate this year.
Manager John Gibbons praised his contributions following his acquisition last season, describing him succinctly as “a very professional player.”
Still, while he provided stellar defense and helped fortify a dedicated and driven clubhouse following his arrival, Tulowitzki slumped at the plate, slashing .239/.317/.380 in 41 games with the Blue Jays, well off the .300/.348/.471 he delivered in 41 games with the Rockies beforehand.
To that end, he’s been experimenting with moving from a toe-tap to a leg kick as the trigger for his swing, a product of his regular discussions about hitting with Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista.
“Every off-season I try to get myself better as a player,” Tulowitzki said. “I know I can be a way better offensive player than I was (in Toronto), I went through a few things and changed some things up to try and better myself. There’s a little bit of a leg kick in there, but some of the stuff I do up top is real similar.”
If the end result pushes him toward the slash line of .297/.369/.508 he’s posted over a 10-year career, a Blue Jays lineup already bulging with mashers will become even more imposing. And the offence will need to help carry the load if he’s to reach his ultimate goal.
“I want to win a ring, bottom line,” he said. “All I care about is winning, going to the playoffs, year-in and year-out. Really, winning a ring is something I value the most.”
Changing up anything in your swing could be a risky move. In this case, it’s a move of improvement, or at least that’s what Troy Tulowitzki is hoping for.
The Toronto Blue Jays shortstop recently added a new leg kick to his batting stance and getting rid of his old “toe tap.” This method is used to get his timing down and support his bat speed. The stance is also used by two of the team’s best hitters in Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista.
In his article about Tulo’s newest addition, Ian Hunter of the Blue Jays Hunter compares the old and new swings side-by-side.
— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) February 23, 2016
Unless you look intently, it’s difficult to see any changes, but after a while you can see the toe tap in his old stance on the left.
“The main different in Troy Tulowitzki’s swing (which is well illustrated in the GIF) is the noticeable leg kick he’s now using,” Hunter explained to me in an interview. “This is a timing method which Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson have used with great success and it’s helped turn their careers completely around.”
Hunter adds that prior to spring training, the five-time All-Star employed the method to generate more power.
“It leaves the player more susceptible to breaking balls,” says Hunter. “The potential trade off here for Tulowitzki is he may end up trading some home runs and power to the gap for strikeouts.”
Connor Dawson is the lead hitting instructor at Premier Baseball in Kansas City. He told me he noticed a lot of different movements in Tulo’s swing.
“I think a switch for the leg kick would be extremely beneficial to Tulo considering the power arms of the AL East, in particular the Yankees,” he says. “It will allow him to see the ball better.”
Dawson says you can also notice Tulowitzki points the tip of his barrel towards the batter.
“Something Josh Donaldson is known for which creates more barrel turn and more power.”
“These two changes along with Tulo being known as a very hard swinger could make for a very dangerous hitter this year,” explains Dawson.
I’ve just added medium quality photos from the Sports Illustrated issue last fall into the gallery. Enjoy!
• Photoshoots > 2015 > The New Jacks: 2015 MLB Playoff Preview
I’ve just updated the gallery with scans from Rockies Magazine dating back to August of last year to August of this year, the October 12th issue of Sports Illustrated, as well as photos from the end of the season, the ALDS and the ALCS. Enjoy!
• Magazine Scans > Rockies Magazine > August 2014
• Magazine Scans > Rockies Magazine > September 2014
• Magazine Scans > Rockies Magazine > March 2015
• Magazine Scans > Rockies Magazine > April 2015
• Magazine Scans > Rockies Magazine > May 2015
• Magazine Scans > Rockies Magazine > June 2015
• Magazine Scans > Rockies Magazine > July 2015
• Magazine Scans > Rockies Magazine > August 2015
• Magazine Scans > Sports Illustrated > October 12, 2015
• Toronto Blue Jays > Games > 2015 > October 2, 2015
• Toronto Blue Jays > Games > 2015 > October 8, 2015
• Toronto Blue Jays > Games > 2015 > October 9, 2015
• Toronto Blue Jays > Games > 2015 > October 11, 2015
• Toronto Blue Jays > Games > 2015 > October 12, 2015
• Toronto Blue Jays > Games > 2015 > October 13, 2015
• Toronto Blue Jays > Games > 2015 > October 14, 2015
• Toronto Blue Jays > Games > 2015 > October 16, 2015
• Toronto Blue Jays > Games > 2015 > October 17, 2015
• Toronto Blue Jays > Games > 2015 > October 19, 2015
• Toronto Blue Jays > Games > 2015 > October 20, 2015
• Toronto Blue Jays > Games > 2015 > October 21, 2015
• Toronto Blue Jays > Games > 2015 > October 22, 2015
• Toronto Blue Jays > Games > 2015 > October 23, 2015