Iron man

Jays’ Tu­low­itzki aim­ing for long ca­reer play­ing short­stop

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY MELISSA COUTO

He ar­rived early Thurs­day sport­ing a Su­per­man T-shirt but Troy Tu­low­itzki wants to be­come more of an iron man with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The 32-year-old in­fielder showed up days be­fore his of­fi­cial re­port date and upon his ar­rival hit the gym for a lengthy work­out. Tu­low­itzki plans to keep play­ing short­stop — a po­si­tion he de­scribed as “de­mand­ing, es­pe­cially as you get older” — for the re­main­der of his ca­reer.

“I’m try­ing to do some­thing no one’s ever done: be as big as I am and con­tinue to play short­stop at the high­est level,” Tu­low­itzki said. “I chal­lenge my­self ev­ery sin­gle day to keep this thing go­ing.

“It’s some­thing I take pride in and hope­fully for my en­tire ca­reer I’ll be at that po­si­tion.”

At six foot three and 205 pounds, Tu­low­itzki tow­ers over the tra­di­tional short­stop.

While Tu­low­itzki has strug­gled to stay healthy re­cently — he tore his left hip labrum in 2014, cracked his shoul­der blade in 2015, and missed three weeks with a right quad strain in 2016 — the 11-year vet­eran said hav­ing a strong men­tal ap­proach has made the dif­fer­ence in his ca­reer.

“I’ve had years where I’ve had to grind ev­ery sin­gle day,” he said. “I’ve had years I felt good all the way through, I’ve had times when I’ve had to have surgery and back off, so you never know what you’re go­ing to go through, and that’s where be­ing men­tally strong comes in to play.

“That’s how you get to play this game for a long time. Be­ing faced with ad­ver­sity and get­ting back up.”

Tu­low­itzki said he hasn’t changed much in terms of his off-sea­son prepa­ra­tion over the years. He’s grown ac­cus­tomed to a rou­tine and sticks with it.

It’s served him well so far. Tu­low­itzki has a .292 ca­reer av­er­age and .364 on-base per­cent­age over 1,220 games. But what he prides him­self on most is his rep­u­ta­tion as a stel­lar de­fen­sive short­stop.

“When the ball’s hit to me I want not only our coaches to put their heads down (be­cause they know) the in­nings’s over but any­one who watches the game,” said Tu­low­itzki, who had a .983 field­ing per­cent­age last sea­son. “That’s what I try to bring on a day-to-day ba­sis, that con­sis­tency.

“I def­i­nitely put a lot of pres­sure on my­self in that area be­cause I ex­pect so much,” he added. “I chal­lenge (the rest of Toronto’s in­field) on a daily ba­sis to get bet­ter.”

Toronto man­ager John Gib­bons can ap­pre­ci­ate what Tu­low­itzki has brought to his team over the last two sea­sons.

“He’s been great,” Gib­bons said. “A big part of pitch­ing suc­cess is catch­ing the ball be­hind them.

“Tulo, he’s not a flashy guy, just a blue-col­lar guy, goes out there and does his job and re­ally no one does it bet­ter. He plays the po­si­tion a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent, he’s al­ways on the move. But I’ve never been around any­body on a daily ba­sis that is as good as him. You can’t win without a good short­stop.”

CP PHOTO

Toronto Blue Jays’ Troy Tu­low­itzki throws his bat after mak­ing the fi­nal out in Game 5 of the Amer­i­can League Cham­pi­onship Series against the Cleveland In­di­ans in Toronto in Oc­to­ber 2016

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