Which Troy Tulowitzki can the Blue Jays expect to return?


Troy Tulowitzki‘s time with the Toronto Blue Jays had been gentle on him until colliding with Kevin Pillar. Despite struggling at the plate, Tulowitzki benefited from not carrying the Jays’ playoff hopes on his shoulders alone. With the team winning consistently and the addition of David Price to an already star-studded roster, Tulo’s troubles escaped the backlash they may have received in a different year.

Now expected to return to the roster towards the end of the regular season or beginning of the playoffs, it’s important to think critically in regards to how strong Tulo will play upon his return. While I had wholeheartedly expected him to find his offensive groove down the stretch, something he was already on the cusp of doing at the time of his injury, how will these weeks of rest impact his performance?

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With Toronto’s minor league system finished for 2015, there is no place for Tulowitzki to sneak in some rehab at-bats, though I doubt someone with his experience necessarily needs them. His success upon returning will come down to two things: timing and pain tolerance.

This is not a thumb or wrist injury, impacting a very localized spot on one side of the body. Instead, Tulo’s left shoulder blade could give him trouble during any baseball motion, whether it be fielding, throwing or swinging. As the body rotates, a twinge of pain can force hitters away from fully committing or following through with an act.

Timing will play a pivotal factor, as well, given the unique nature of Tulowitzki’s swing. Starting in an upright, almost straight-legged stance, there are some moving parts involved with getting Tulo’s bat to the ball. This is no different than any hitter on an MLB roster, but again, it’s a factor. If he were returning in the middle of the season this would be a complete non-issue, but come playoff time, the Blue Jays will be facing their most important game of the season. Every night.

Looking through Tulo’s injury history, he missed nearly a month of playing time in 2013 with a fractured rib on his right side after diving for a ball. After returning on July 11th of that season, he would start out slowly, hitting just .200 over his first 10 games after being activated from the DL. Over his shortened July (16 games), Tulo managed a .228 average with 15 strikeouts.

This represents “Exhibit A” when it comes to small and select sample sizes, but it also represents a situation worth fearing. One where Tulowitzki returns to the lineup, but does not have the necessary time to work himself back into a groove. It’s possible, too, that his ability to throw across his body at shortstop or extend fully for ground balls could be limited.

When the time comes, though, this is Troy Tulowitzki. The All-Star, the rare offensive talent for his position, perhaps the best in the game. While the circumstances are miles from ideal, a roster that remains atop the league without him will improve. All Tulo needs to do is outperform Cliff Pennington, the man who will head to the bench for him, for the starting nine become a stronger unit. Doable.

The perfect situation would see him return with several games remaining on the regular season schedule, but in a year where so much has gone right, hoping for a playoff return should be reasonable enough. The Jays may not be adding the Troy Tulowitzki to their lineup, but the version of him they will be receiving should still provide an inarguable upgrade from the present.

Next: 2015 Top Prospect Review: OF Anthony Alford

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