Even if it was just a spring training game, Yankees shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was pumped to hit a home run against the team that cut him this offseason.
"You guys know the story, you know what happened," Tulowitzki said, according to the New York Post's George A. King III, after going 1-for-2 in Monday's 3-0 Grapefruit League win over Toronto. "No doubt about it, it was extra special."
The 34-year-old Tulowitzki, who missed all of the 2018 season while recovering from double heel surgery, signed a one-year minimum deal with the Yankees this offseason after the Blue Jays cut him even though they are still on the hook for the remaining two years and $38 million on his contract.
"Basically," said Tulowitzki, who has appeared in more than 100 games in a season just twice since 2014, "they told me I couldn't play anymore. ... A lot of people said it's only one day and a lot of people said I would never make it back on a baseball field again."
The Yankees, who are only on the hook for $555,000, held a workout for him in December after shortstop Digi Gregorius underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of last season and opted to sign him over Manny Machado, who ultimately signed a 10-year, $300 million deal with the Padres last week.
Troy Tulowitzki homers this spring: 1- SNY (@SNYtv) February 25, 2019
Manny Machado homers this spring: 0pic.twitter.com/tBt8deQjfa
Though Tulowitzki hasn't played since 20117, when he hit .249/.300/.378 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs in 66 games, the Yankees are optimistic he can make a positive impact for them while Gregorius recovers.
"Once the Tulo thing came in play, it kind of changed some of the equation for us, clearly," GM Brian Cashman said last week. "It allowed us to secure a player that we're excited about what he can potentially do while Didi is due to come back."
A 12-year MLB veteran, Tulowitzki spent most of his career with the Rockies before he was traded to the Blue Jays in 2015. Though he appeared in three straight All-Star Games at the time he was traded, his tenure with Toronto ended badly. He hit only .250/.313/.414 with 36 home runs and 122 RBIs in 238 games.
Enter Monday, when he led off the game with a solo home run to right field off Marcus Stroman and let out a "f--- yeah!" after rounding the bases.
"There was extra emotion on that," Tulowitzki said. "It's the biggest spring training home run I have ever hit. I got a little pumped out there, but anybody who tells you that you are done, you are going to be a little extra pumped. ... Today didn't count, but it counted for myself."