Swing where Tulowitzki wants it
Shortstop learning strategy to opposing pitchers' counterattack
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Many outstanding players see Spring Training as a time to break down a swing, maybe devote at-bats to specific tasks. Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, however, doesn't want to do that much thinking at any time of the year.
"I'm probably one of those guys that doesn't think much at all," Tulowitzki said. "I use the middle of the field and swing."
Then again, a player doesn't need much of a plan when just about everything he hits is at or over the wall. Tulowitzki went 2-for-4 with a double and three runs in Saturday's 12-11 victory over the Diamondbacks at Tucson Electric Park.
Actually, Saturday was a bad day in comparison to Tulowitzki's recent work. Before he grounded out in his first appearance against Diamondbacks starter Edgar Gonzalez, Tulowitzki had reached safely in six plate appearances, with a home run, three doubles, a single and a walk.
Tulowitzki, who finished a narrow second in National League Rookie of the Year voting, is hitting .341 with four home runs, five doubles and six RBIs. One telling stat is his seven walks.
Last season, Tulowtizki hit .291 with 24 home runs and 99 RBIs. After a young hitter proves that dangerous over a full season, he can expect pitchers to attack him differently, most likely by changing speeds and increasing their use of breaking balls.
"I've seen a good fare of offspeed stuff, but nothing's really been for a strike," Tulowitzki said. "I'm doing a good job of laying off stuff, and the pitches I think I can handle, I'm putting good swings on them."
Tulowitzki said some of that strategy has started this spring.
"Especially the Diamondbacks," Tulowitzki said. "They want to have a plan and want to test out some things, to see how they're going to pitch me during the regular season. For instance, facing [Diamondbacks setup man Chad] Qualls today was huge. He's probably going to be in the game a lot. It was good for us to get to see him."
Tulowitzki will be in a good position to hit.
He'll bat behind speedy leadoff man Willy Taveras, who is such a stolen-base threat that his mere presence could reduce the number of offspeed pitches Tulowitzki will see. Also, teams should be loath to walk him because on-base threat Todd Helton and run producer Matt Holiday follow him.
Still, Tulowitzki is on opposing pitchers' radar.
"He's going to grow as a hitter," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's only got one season. One of the biggest challenges that comes is how the league is going to set him up for the second season and how he's going to counterpunch.
"They're going to throw breaking balls. They don't want to walk him. To his credit, he's able to sit back, he's able to get clean reads on the spinning stuff, he's using the big part of the ballpark. That's going to be a key for his success throughout the season."
The spring hot streak will go away, but Tulowitzki is counting on retaining the lessons he's drawing from it.
"It's always nice to have your swing where it needs to be," Tulowtizki said. "I feel confident I can carry it into the season. Even if I do struggle, like I keep stressing, I know where I need to be and know how to get out of that."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.