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Tim Tebow ‘feels more comfortable’ in pro baseball

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) There are still too many strikeouts. His patience at the plate is a struggle. And the batting average remains below .250. But Tim Tebow believes he’s making steady progress in his life as a pro baseball player.

“It feels more comfortable,” Tebow said Tuesday night , a short time after scoring the winning run in the Columbia Fireflies’ 2-1 victory over Delmarva. “I’m definitely seeing pitches better. I feel like I’m getting better every week, too.”

The numbers bear that out, minus his flashy start for the New York Mets Class A affiliate – Tebow homered in first pro at-bat , then added a second homer three games later. An average that hovered in the mid-.100s for the first couple of weeks has jumped to .231. Tebow had three multi-strikeout games in his first six starts, yet just one in his last 10.

“His at-bats, you see the consistency,” Fireflies manager Jose Leger said. “Once he finds the rhythm, this guy’s got the right tools to play this game.”

Tebow displayed patience against the Shorebirds, reaching three times despite going 0 for 2. His one-out walk in the bottom of the ninth started Columbia’s winning rally, with the former Heisman Trophy quarterback for Florida crossing the plate with the winning run after Gene Cone’s bases-loaded walk.

Tebow awaited his charging teammates for congratulations, but they passed him right up to continue down the first-base line where one had successfully stepped on the bag.

“We haven’t had many walkoffs like that,” the former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner at Florida said with a smile. “I’m just glad I didn’t get the Gatorade.”

Tebow, 29, has put in the work to improve, Leger said. He shows up at the park early for extra batting practices or shags fly balls late to better his skills in left field. He’s also dealt with the throngs of fans, home and away, clamoring to say hello, take a selfie or get an autograph.

One fan Tuesday night was decked out head to legs in Gators gear. Another group arrived with one person in Tebow’s No. 15 Broncos jersey and a second wearing Tebow’s New York Jets jersey.

It’s not always easy, Tebow acknowledged, balancing the discipline and focus on the field necessary to get better at baseball with the demands of others off it.

“I feel I’m making progress,” he said. “But it’s a process. It’s just continuing to have that work ethic whether you’re oh for 4 or whether you’re 3 for 4. It’s something I’ve tried to focus on this entire time. I don’t want to get too good after a good game or too bad. I’m just trying to stay level headed.”

Columbia president John Katz said there’s no timetable for Tebow’s stay in South Carolina.

“We don’t control any of that,” Katz noted.

Leger would love to have Tebow around a lot longer. He’s been a leader in the clubhouse, showing the younger guys that extra work is essential to succeed at this game.

“I try to bring that even keel every single day, with energy,” Tebow said.

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Anthony Alford to miss 4-6 weeks following wrist surgery

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Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.

Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.

Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.

Stephen Strasburg hit a new career high today

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Good luck getting a hit against the Nationals this weekend. Stephen Strasburg followed Max Scherzer‘s 13-strikeout performance on Friday with a dazzling outing of his own on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander whiffed a career-best 15 batters in seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 3-0 win.

It took Strasburg several innings to get into a groove after pitching into (and out of) a jam in the first inning. The Padres loaded the bases with Allen Cordoba‘s leadoff single, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg. By the third, Strasburg was cruising, striking out the side on 18 pitches and keeping the Padres off the basepaths until the sixth. He recorded his 15th and final strikeout in the seventh inning, catching Padres’ prospect Franchy Cordero swinging on a 1-2 pitch to effectively end his outing.

While 15 strikeouts set a new career record for the Nationals’ ace, he came close to reaching the mark twice before. The first time, he struck out 14 of 24 batters during his major league debut against the 2010 Pirates, though the 5-2 win did little more than keep the Nationals neck-and-neck with the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. Five years later, he tied his 14-strikeout record against the 2015 Phillies, tossing a one-hitter in eight innings to cement his ninth victory of the season.

The only one who doesn’t seem overly enthused by the new record? Strasburg himself, who told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and AJ Cassavell: “It’s pretty cool, but there’s another game five, six days from now. I’ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow.”