Yankees veteran Troy Tulowitzki has begun taking grounders at third base as well as his accustomed shortstop position, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports on Twitter. Tulowitzki is said to have approached the club to express a willingness to move around the infield.
The 34-year-old Tulowitzki has never appeared at a position other than shortstop in his 13 seasons at the MLB level. (That’s also true of his 1200+ frames in the minors.) That’s a reflection of his well-deserved reputation for quality glovework at the game’s most challenging defensive position as well as his former excellence as as hitter. Teams have simply never had cause to utilize Tulowitzki elsewhere on the diamond, though there’s little reason to think he wouldn’t thrive in other positions.
Unfortunately, Tulo made it through only thirty innings of action this year before he was once again sidelined with a lower-body injury (this time, his calf). Even as he continues to work back to full strength, the man he was brought in to cover for — the younger Didi Gregorius — has made his own steady progress. Gregorius’s star rose steadily in New York before Tommy John surgery last October. Despite a rehab timeline that stretched into the middle of the 2019 campaign, the Yanks staked $12.4MM in arbitration salary on him.
So long as Gregorius makes it back as hoped — he’s still due to return at some point in June — there isn’t much of a path to playing time at short for Tulowitzki. Indeed, it’s not clear there’ll be a roster spot at all, even with third baseman Miguel Andujar sidelined for the duration of the season.
Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu are clearly at the top of the depth chart. Somehow, most of the Yanks’ fill-in infielders have produced at strong levels. Gio Urshela has been particularly impressive, turning in a robust .346/.400/.490 output in 115 plate appearances. And Thairo Estrada has posted a .303/.324/.545 slash through his first 35 turns at the MLB dish.
Injuries or setbacks could always intervene, as this team well knows, but there could be some tough choices when Tulowitzki and Gregorius are both healthy. It’s hard to fathom the Yankees bumping the out-of-options Urshela from the roster — barring a sudden collapse, at least. Estrada can be optioned, though that would only account for one roster spot. Switch-hitting slugger Kendrys Morales is the most vulnerable member of the roster, but he’s off to a hot start in the Bronx and offers a much-needed lefty bat.