By Bob Ellliott
St. PETERSBURG _ So what did the former Blue Jays shortstop think of the new Jays shortstop?
“Pretty good,” said second baseman Ryan Goins, of Troy Tulowitzki, making his first start at short since Sept. 12 in the first game of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium, “he’s one of the best.”
Tulowitzki suffered a small crack in his shoulder blade when centre fielder Kevin Pillar came charging in and hit the shortstop after he caught a pop up from Didi Gregorious in New York.
No one knew for sure that night if Tulowitzki would be back for post-season play.
Showing he was ready for prime time action, Tulowitzki lined to right in the first, struck out looking and had a run-scoring single to left, cutting the Tampa Bay lead to 4-2 facing Erasmo Ramirez and then scored on a Goins triple to right. Next he flew out to centre and doubled to right off reliever Matt Andriese in the ninth.
“We put in a lot of work to get back,” Tulowitzki told reporters after the game. He took his first swings against live action in a simulated game earlier Friday afternoon.
“I passed a lot of tests,” said Tulowitzki of the game, “the ball I jumped for that went off my glove for a single (Joey Butler), I had some ground balls (sprinting towards the hole he threw on the run to erase Tim Beckham for the final out of the fourth) and I had some swings and misses.”
Like a heavyweight boxer who throws a punch and misses there was a concern that a swing and miss could be painful.
The Jays were trailing 4-1 in the fifth when suddenly it was like an old reunion of characters from one of the early September wins got together: Mark Buehrle righted himself working 6 2/3 innings to get to within two innings of the 200 mark, Tulowitzki hit a wall ball and centre fielder Kevin Pillar made like an airborne Superman diving to rob Luke Maile of extra bases with one out in the seventh and the Jays leading 8-4.
“Kevin has the ability to awe people,” said Tulowitzki, “and I don’t only mean the fans, you looked into their dugout or into out dugout at the player’s faces. The guys in our bullpen were tipping their caps.”
It was a night that the Jays had to win in order to keep pace with the Kansas City Royals -- 3-1 winners over the Minnesota Twins -- so both teams have 93 wins with two games remaining in the schedule. The Jays win the tie breaker with the Royals for home field advantage.
“I thought it was a good catch when I made it,” said Pillar, “I didn’t realize how much ground I covered until I got into the dugout and saw the replay.”
If it was Buehrle’s last meaningful start as a Jay it was a good one. The Jays brass was meeting Saturday morn to decide the post-season rotation after David Price starts Game 1 on Thursday at the Rogers Centre.
Manager of the Year: The manager of the year candidate was asked who he liked for the honor.
“If I was to say right now, I’d go right across the way: Kevin Cash,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, whose club has clinched the American League East.
“I’m a big fan of his, I love the kid because he played here. He’s done a tremendous job here with Tampa Bay, everything he’s been through.
“You’ve got Paul Molitor, with a team Minnesota Twins. Even after some guys win, I’ll look at it and say, I would have picked so and so. Usually you look at teams that weren’t expected to achieve, they hung in there, those guys are usually the guys that stand out to me. When teams are expected (to do) something, we were expected (to do) something, so I don’t give that much thought.”
Gibbons pointed out A.J. Hinch has fared well with the Houston Astros.
When the New York Yankees clinched on Thursday manager Joe Girardi hugged bench coach Robbie Thomson. Who did Gibbons hug?
“I shake hands, I don’t hug,” Gibbons said. “I was able to exhale a little bit. Really, a lot of satisfaction, because I mean really, it was a long time coming, but not just for me here, you look at the organization all those years and a lot of people have been around. I’m more happy for guys that have been around here forever that went through the lean years. I don’t put a whole lot of focus on myself.
“Gratification and a lot of relief because we got there. I was happy for Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, R.A. Dickey, guys been around a while but winning for first time.
Gibbons said he received congratulatory texts from former players like Scott Rolen and Justin Speier and J.P. Ricciardi the GM who hired him as a bullpen catcher in 2002.