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Blue Jays: Troy Tulowitzki looks and sounds determined to return

TORONTO, ON - MAY 29: Troy Tulowitzki #2 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates as he circles the bases on his grand slam home run in the third inning during MLB game action against the Cincinnati Reds at Rogers Centre on May 29, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MAY 29: Troy Tulowitzki #2 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates as he circles the bases on his grand slam home run in the third inning during MLB game action against the Cincinnati Reds at Rogers Centre on May 29, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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After spending more than a year on the sidelines rehabbing various injuries and surgeries, Troy Tulowitzki sounds like a man who is motivated to return.

At times it’s almost easy to forget that Troy Tulowitzki is still on the Blue Jays roster, albeit firmly planted on the disabled list. He’s been there since July of the 2017 season, and there is no set date for his return this year.

The veteran shortstop hopes to make his way back to the field before the end of the 2018 campaign, and after doing some interviews, including one with Sportsnet, I have to admit that I’m more optimistic than I’ve been in a very long time. For lack of a better description, he had a twinkle in his eye that I haven’t seen in some time, and I feel like he’s truly motivated to get back on the field.

It’s been a shame to watch the 5x All-Star struggle to stay healthy in a Blue Jays uniform, especially because he’s still young enough that he could have theoretically been at the end of his prime over the last couple of years. Still just 33 years old, it’s easy to think of Tulowitzki as someone who is at the end of his career, especially because of the seemingly chronic injuries he deals with.

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He came to Toronto with a long history of DL stints, so it wasn’t as if his body completely betrayed him once he changed area codes. However, this last round of injuries has been arguably the worst of his career, and more than a year on the sidelines doesn’t do a lot for the projections on whatever he’s got left going forward.

The Blue Jays still have him under contract for quite awhile, and have every reason to root for a healthy return. According to Spotrac.com, he’s owed 20 million 2019, 14 million in 2020, and has a team option of 15 million in 2021, with a six million dollar buyout. That adds up to a minimum of 40 million over two years still committed to the former first round pick, so the hope is they can eventually get him back on the field and contributing, whether that’s for the Blue Jays, or eventually somewhere else as the team continues to rebuild. In order for him to move on to another team though, he would have to prove he can be healthy and productive, something we haven’t seen from him since he played 131 games in the 2016 season.

As I said above, his interview did give me some hope though, mostly because of the way that he described the process, and what’s driving him on a day to day basis. It might sound cheesy, but he talked about his son and how often he’s asked when he’ll be back on the field. The two-time Gold Glove winner knows that his young son wants to see him get back to doing what he does best, and he smiled as he talked about using that to keep him going during a long and difficult rehab process. We can’t discount that kind of motivation, especially because he seemed to relish the source, understandably so.

Tulowitzki also looked calm and confident during the interview, and talked about how he knew this wasn’t going to be a minor surgery, especially because it was on both of his feet at the same time. For those of you that missed that detail in the past, he was dealing with bone spurs in both heels, and after an offseason that didn’t rehab as successfully as all parties had hoped, the Blue Jays and Tulowitzki elected to get the problem taken care of with surgery, once and for all.

Hopefully it’ll do just that and the once great two-way player can get back to doing what he does best. There was a time when many considered him to be among, if not the best shortstop in all of baseball. He’s not going to be on that level anymore even when healthy, but a completely rehabbed Tulowitzki still has the potential to be above-average or better. It’s always been a question of health, even since he arrived in Toronto. It’s just that he’s had such little time being fully healthy, that many of us forget what he was like when he was at his best in a Blue Jay uniform in 2015-16. It wasn’t a MVP contender, but it was a star in the stable for sure.

For the 13 year veteran and the team, the goal has to simply be getting him back on the field before the end of the year if possible. He’s not going to be traded now or in the upcoming offseason, so giving him the boost of getting back to baseball is the best and most realistic goal. If that doesn’t happen before the last 56 games of this year are up, then he’ll have another offseason to get even stronger. Tulowitzki admitted that he wouldn’t be coming back until he’s 100% ready, so if that means it’s not until next March, then it sounds like that’s what will happen.

But with the motivation of his son, and the obvious dwindling opportunity in the Blue Jays infield, Tulowitzki knows that he has to get back in uniform at some point soon or there may not be much place left for him. There is a lot of infield talent and depth, both at the big league and Jr. circuit levels, and the Blue Jays can’t hold a place for him forever. You could argue they’ve already moved on from him in terms of roster building, and he’ll have to earn his playing time when he is healthy again.

Next. Update on Lourdes Gurriel Jr.'s injury status. dark

If all goes well, hopefully that’ll happen again before the end of the 2018 season. Oddly enough though, I’m more confident now than ever that it will.

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