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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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Yadier Molina gets cast removed from surgically-repaired thumb

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Yadier Molina underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the NLDS by the Cubs, and then he needed a followup procedure two months later.

It’s been an offseason of rest and rehab for the seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, though he’s about ready to ramp up the intensity of workouts with the beginning of spring training approaching …

Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract this winter to provide more reliable depth behind the plate. He’ll be the Cardinals’ starter at catcher come Opening Day if Yadi isn’t quite ready.

Molina started a whopping 131 games behind the plate in 2015.

Jose Fernandez wants $30 million a year, Marlins don’t plan on paying

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You’ve heard the stories by now. Jose Fernandez does not get along with Marlins management and is doubtful to sign a long-term contract with the team.

There’s still time for those relationships to be repaired — Fernandez can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season — but we also have a monetary issue at play.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Sunday that the Marlins are “under the impression” Fernandez and his representatives want $30 million per year on a long-term deal, a figure the Marlins “have no plans to meet.”

If the Marlins won’t pay, Fernandez and his reps will seek that number when the ace right-hander reaches free agency. That could be the same offseason Bryce Harper tries for $500 million.

A friend of Fernandez told Jackson that the 23-year-old native of Cuba was upset about some of the trades the Marlins made last summer and the removal of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. You probably heard talk of Miami shopping Fernandez this winter, but the asking price was predictably sky-high.

Fernandez has been limited to 19 starts over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery and a biceps injury, but he boasts a stellar 2.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 289 career major league frames. He will make $2.8 million in 2016 and carries two more years of arbitration eligibility.

If he can put together a run of 30-start, 200-inning seasons, Fernandez will get that $30 million per year and probably much more.

Michael Brantley’s timetable off shoulder surgery is “hazy”

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Paul Hoynes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an in-depth look at how the Indians will manage their outfield during the early part of the 2016 season, in the absence of star Michael Brantley.

Brantley underwent labrum surgery on his right shoulder this past November and has not picked up a bat all winter. “In the off-season people know I love to hit,” Brantley acknowledged to Hoynes late last week. ”I hit a lot. It’s just been a change in my timetable.”

Hoynes says the projected date for Brantley’s 2016 debut is “hazy,” guessing that it might happen around late April or early May if everything continues to go smoothly. Shoulders can be tricky, for hitters and pitchers.

Rajai Davis, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall figure to make up Cleveland’s primary starting outfield while Brantley is finishing his rehabilitation. Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler could also be in the mix. It’s a lacking group, tasked with replacing one of the most productive players in baseball.

Brantley, 28, has slashed .319/.382/.494 over the last two seasons, tallying 35 home runs, 90 doubles, 181 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in 293 games.

Could the talented Tribe be in for another slow start?

Shouldn’t this club be spending more money?

Jose Bautista had a courtside view of Saturday night’s epic NBA Slam Dunk Contest

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Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic put on a tremendous show in Saturday night’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest up in Toronto, Canada. The stars were out to see it at the Air Canada Centre, and Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista had one of the very best views in the house. Check out this video he posted to Instagram of LaVine’s final dunk, a between-the-legs jam from just inside the free throw line …

Its a wrap!!! #BackToBack #SlamDunk #Champion @zachlavine8 🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽

A video posted by Jose Bautista (@joeybats19) on

That is Toronto’s very own Drake going wild in the pink jacket. Gordon probably had the best individual dunk of the night, though, if we’re being really real …

Back to your regularly scheduled baseball programming. Pitchers and catchers report Friday.