Troy Tulowitzki admits defensive struggles are ‘in my head’

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While discussing his defense during spring training of 2011, this is what Troy Tulowitzki had to say:

“I definitely take pride in playing great defense. Now that I’ve won by my first Gold Glove and my second Fielding Bible award, people who have questioned that I was too big to play shortstop, I think I’ve kinda put those people to sleep. Now they realize I can play the position.

It certainly isn’t easy being this big of a guy, 200-plus pounds, playing shortstop. I think guys like Cal (Ripken), A-Rod and Derek (Jeter) obviously, the bigger shortstops kind of changed things. They’re letting guys actually try out there now, if they’re athletic enough.”

Tulowitzki pays attention to UZR ratings (though he doesn’t necessarily trust them) as well as Gold Gloves and Fielding Bible Awards, and covets defensive honors as much as Silver Sluggers and All-Star appearances. So you know that his struggles in the field so far this season are bothering him.

The All-Star shortstop has made six errors already this season, including a pair of two-error games within a span of four nights. He made just six errors in all of 2011, and insists that he is healthy. Nonetheless, Tulo sat out Wednesday night’s victory over the Padres.

Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy said the day off was pre-planned, but it seems likely that the move was made to give Tulo a chance to relax and get a handle on his scuffling. In fact, Tulowitzki admitted to Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post that his defensive miscues were getting into his head:

“I think about it … Yeah, it’s in my head,” he said. “I’m taking the field and thinking about it. I never thought about defense. I just go out there and play, and if I make an error, I made an error. But I wasn’t worried about it. So, yeah, I think about it. It’s in my head. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t in my head. I think about it because I care.”

It’s a pretty open assessment from Tulowitzki, who is also hitting just .244 so far this season. You would hope that the rest helps him clear his head. The last thing you want to see is one of the game’s great defensive players suddenly turn into Chuck Knoblauch.
Rockies veteran Jason Giambi has done his part to help his friend, showing Tulowitzki a highlight reel of some of his top plays.

“People, fans, media, teammates, we all have to realize the Tulo is human,” Giambi said.

That may be true, but the superhero version (see below) is much more enjoyable to watch. Here’s hoping he hurries back.

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Video: Jaime Garcia hits a 399-foot grand slam

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Jaime Garcia has been at the center of trade talks for several days now, but on Friday night, he commanded center stage for an entirely different reason. The Braves’ southpaw went head-to-head with Dodgers’ lefty Alex Wood and mashed his first career grand slam: a two-out, 399-foot blast that cleared the wall in right field and put the Braves up 9-0 in the fifth inning.

The bases-loaded knock was the third career home run for Garcia, whose contributions at the plate have been few and far between over his nine-year track in the major leagues. Not only did the homer mark an impressive career first for the 30-year-old, but it was just the second pitcher grand slam in Braves’ history and the first since 1966.

Garcia looked almost as impressive on the mound during Friday’s series opener, issuing one run, four hits and three strikeouts through his first six innings. The Braves currently lead the Dodgers 12-1 in the top of the seventh inning.

As for whether the slam will affect negotiations between the Braves and Twins? MLB.com’s Mike Petriello put it best:

Ryon Healy exits game after taking a ground ball to the face

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Athletics’ first baseman Ryon Healy had a scary moment during Friday’s loss to the Mets. Lucas Duda smacked a single to the first base side, where the ball took a high hop and caught Healy in the left temple. He crumpled to the ground after getting struck by the one-hopper, but was eventually able to stand and walk off the field with assistance from a trainer.

Prior to the injury, Healy went 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI single in the first inning. He was replaced by Yonder Alonso, who finished off the rest of the night’s 7-5 loss with a walk in two plate appearances.

Following the game, manager Bob Melvin told reporters that Healy did not appear to have sustained a concussion as a result of the hit. Healy said he thinks he’ll be good to go for Saturday’s game, though a final decision likely won’t be made until tomorrow.