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TAMPA — At this time last year, Troy Tulowitzki was battling bone spurs in each heel and unsure what was ahead of him.
“I was on the back field in Dunedin wondering how I was going to get through the season,’’ said Tulowitzki, the former Blue Jays shortstop.
Tulowitzki’s season never started because he had surgery on each heel to remove bone spurs on April 2. After missing the entire season, the Blue Jays released him in December despite owing him $38 million.
Move the calendar forward 12 months and Tulowitzki looks like he is 24 instead of 34 and nothing like a player who hasn’t participated in a regular-season big-league game since July 28, 2017.
Tulowitzki has played in two exhibition games and has homered twice. His first was against the Blue Jays and he shouted into their dugout rounding third. The second blast was in Thursday’s 8-6 win over the Pirates at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
“The first was a little more emotional,’’ Tulowitzki said. “Everyone is going to mean a lot.’’
Signed to play shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns from Tommy John surgery, Tulowitzki has looked good at the plate, but Aaron Boone likes something more.
“It’s great to get early results [at the plate] and to have a couple of home runs out of the gate, but I am more excited how well he is moving in the field,’’ Boone said. “How he is attacking the ball and moving free and easy. He looks really athletic out there. That’s probably the thing I am more excited about.’’
CC Sabathia is scheduled for his first extended bullpen session of spring training Friday.
Sabathia, who underwent right knee surgery in October and had a stent inserted into a blocked heart artery in December, has been limited to long tossing since camp opened. He hasn’t been participating in pitcher’s fielding practice or wind sprints.
“I am looking forward to it,’’ Sabathia said of the mound session. “It should be good. Progress to more bullpens and then [throw] batting practice.’’
Sabathia has extra time to prepare for the season because he is suspended for the first five games for throwing at Tampa Bay’s Jesus Sucre last Sept. 27 last year. An abbreviated spring training is nothing new to the 38-year-old lefty; he made only two official spring training starts last year. Minor league appearances and simulated games are other ways to get work.
In his final season of what will be a 19-year career, Sabathia is very close to two milestones that will likely land him in the Hall of Fame someday. No pitcher who has 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts, except Roger Clemens who is still on the ballot, isn’t in Cooperstown. Sabathia has 246 wins and 2,986 strikeouts.
With Jacoby Ellsbury expected to start the season on the injured list, there is an outfield spot to be won. Early in camp it was believed Clint Frazier, should he avoid injury, had a very good chance of landing it. Nevertheless, Tyler Wade’s versatility — he can play second, short, third and left field — gives him a chance.
Wade’s left-handed bat has enhanced that chance. He hit a solo homer in Thursday’s win over the Pirates. In four games, Wade is 5-for-8 with two RBIs.
“His last couple of games he has had some serious results,’’ Aaron Boone said of Wade. “The last couple of days his batting practices have been real sharp. That was a no-doubter to right. He has come in here wanting to fight for something. It’s good to see him playing really well. Obviously, what he brings with his speed and his defensive versatility he could be a valuable player for us if that offense comes around.’’
J.A. Happ’s first spring outing wasn’t to the veteran hurler’s liking.
“I felt good about throwing strikes but the execution was not as fine as I would like,’’ said Happ, who gave up three runs and three hits (two homers) in 1 ¹/₃ innings. “It was the first time out but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.’’
Gary Sanchez will make his spring debut Friday night against the Orioles and be behind the plate. The Yankees are taking it slowly with Sanchez after he had offseason surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder.’’
Nets GM Sean Marks was a guest of Brian Cashman for Thursday’s game and was in uniform for it and sat next to Boone.
Greg Bird’s bid to take the first-base job from Luke Voit continued with a 2-for-3 game in the Yankees’ 8-6 win over the Pirates. Most impressive was Bird’s opposite-field double to left-center field.
Pace of game. Thanks to the Pirates and Yankees combining to score nine runs in the first 2 ½ innings, the game took 3 hours, 14 minutes to complete. That is unacceptable.
Adam Ottavino’s first spring outing had a little bit of everything. In one inning the right-handed reliever gave up two hits, two runs, a walk and struck out one.
Fridays’ schedule: James Paxton makes his second spring start against the Orioles in a night game at GMS Field. Sanchez will catch for the first time since left shoulder surgery in the offseason.