Tulo's short answer: He can overcome injury
Deflects suggestions of changing positions, playing less
DENVER -- Injured Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki ran at about 60-70 percent, took light swings in the batting cage and fielded ground balls that were rolled to him at Coors Field on Saturday -- the biggest step yet toward getting back to normal.Tulowitkzi, who hasn't played since May 30 because of a left groin strain, insisted that when he does come back, everything will be normal. His injury has raised a couple of questions: Will he continue at short -- a local columnist called for the Rockies to move him to third base -- and will he play as regularly as before, which will be every day he can will himself into the lineup, no matter how he feels? The idea of a shortstop coming off his second straight Gold Glove Award at age 27 moving to third base strikes Tulowitzki as absurd. He also sees little sense in increasing his number of off-days while the Rockies languish. They were 12 games out of first place before Saturday afternoon's 11-4 loss to the Angels. Tulowitzki (.287, eight home runs, 27 RBIs in 47 games) has battled a groin injury since the first series of the season. Last year, he missed games at midseason with a quadriceps issue, and didn't play the final days of a lost season because of hip flexor pain.
In 2008, Tulowitzki suffered a torn left quadriceps tendon and missed 47 games. So his all-out play at a tough position, and the fact he is willing to play through pain, raises questions.About all that's left is some undiscovered cure to the pains of a 162-game season. "I think if there was some magical thing out there ... there are a lot of guys hurt," Tulowitzki said. "I'll just try to stay on top of things. But with how demanding the middle of the diamond is -- shortstop, catcher, second base, center field -- it is tough. A lot of guys seem to get injured." Tulowitzki bristles at any talk of a position change. The Brewers considered selecting Tulowitzki in the 2005 MLB First-Year Player Draft, but he asked them not to make the pick when they wanted him to move to third base. The Brewers took Ryan Braun, instead. It worked for Milwaukee and Tulowitkzi is certain the choice worked for him and the Rockies, who have not pressed him to move. "It's kind of frustrating," Tulowitzki said. "I don't think I've seen a shortstop winning a Gold Glove and it being talked about him moving to third base. I did it coming out of the [batter's] box. It had nothing to do with defense. I'd play just as hard at third as I do at short. I understand there's a little bit more movement, but I don't think that's the answer." No one is suggesting that Tulowitzki has to have his playing time monitored to the degree that the Rockies are monitoring 38-year-old first baseman Todd Helton, whose history of back problems forces the Rockies to give him frequent time off to get as much as possible out of him. The Rockies won five of their first six games without Tulowitzki, but they've faced top-notch pitching while dropping four straight, and his absence in the cleanup role shows. "He's the kind of player that can change a game with one swing of the bat," said Marco Scutaro, who moved from second base to shortstop to fill in for Tulowitzki. The last two times the Rockies made the playoffs -- 2007 and 2009 -- Tulowitzki played 155 and 151 games, and had the team stayed in the race in other years, he would have landed somewhere near that number. During Spring Training, the Rockies talked about resting Tulowitzki more regularly. Tulowitzki wasn't exactly on board with playing less. In truth, he has been held out of just one game this season that wasn't directly related to injury. That's the way he expects it to go the rest of the season once he returns. "People say that in Spring Training, but we're sitting here 12 games out of first place, and if you take a day off it doesn't look good," Tulowitzki said. "If you're running away with it a little bit and you're in the lead in the division, it's a lot easier to take a day here or there. With the spot we're in, it's going to be hard. "If I'm hurting, I'm going to be honest, but it's going to be tough [to take a day off] when I do come back." Tulowitzki is eligible to return on Friday at Detroit. It isn't clear if he will be ready by then. He will increase his level of activity on Sunday, but he still hasn't taken batting practice, and he'll need an injury rehab assignment.
But when he's back, he wants to be an everyday lineup presence.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.