Jays prospect Tellez moves to Dunedin for head start

By: Danny Gallagher

Canadian Baseball Network

Rowdy Tellez figured the time was right for him to leave his native California and move to Florida.

So three weeks ago, the highly prized Blue Jays’ prospect moved to the Dunedin-Tampa area so he could be next door to the team’s spring training facility.

“I thought it would be best for me that I live here,’’ Tellez said in an interview Wednesday. “I’m working with the major-league training staff and I’m getting ready for spring training. I got a letter telling me to get ready for spring training and what date to report in February but I’m getting a head start.’’

The 6-foot-4 first baseman had just spent a short time with his family in Sacramento after a five-week tour of duty in the Dominican Republic winter league with Estrelles Orientales in San Pedro de Macoris before heading to Florida.

Tellez wants to show that he can make the switch from Double-A to the big-league roster in one, swell swoop. Even though there has been little mention in the media this season of Tellez’s chances of making the Blue Jays, he’s ready to jump in.

“I had a great time down in the Dominican. It was very nice,’’ Tellez said. “I’m ready to go into spring training and open some eyes. I changed my body and I like my weight.

“I’m comfortable with my weight and my power. I wanted to get strong and lean and be comfortable and strong. I’m lighter than I was at the end of last season. I’m not a little person.’’

No, he isn’t. He weighed something like 245 pounds at the end of the 2016 season, a season in which the left-handed hitter slammed 23 homers, drove in 83 runs and batted .297 in only 124 games for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Tellez is headed into spring training with the intent of forming at least part of a platoon scenario at first base once the regular season starts. At this moment in the off-season, holdover Justin Smoak, a left-handed hitter, and right-handed hitting free-agent acquisition Steve Pearce are pencilled in to split time at first.

Tellez is looking to force the Jays to stand up and take notice of him.

With Edwin Encarnacion gone, don't discount the notion of Tellez dislodging Smoak in the platoon but the Jays' brass also has to look at the idea of Tellez's development doesn't lie in part-time work at the big-league level. In the end, the Jays might decide to send him to Buffalo Triple-A where he can play full-time.

“It’s a dream to make a major-league team,’’ Tellez said. “I don’t know what they have in mind for me but they’re giving me this opportunity at spring training and I’m going to run with it. I’m confident. Everyone wants to be in the big leagues. I think I’m ready and we’ll let the gods decide.’’

As for those rumours he’s being thrown into trade talks regarding Pirates outfielder Andrew McCuthen and others, Tellez doesn’t sweat the talk.

“I’m not worried about that stuff,’’ he said. “People send me stuff that this is happening, but it’s not the first time I’ve been mentioned in trade talks.

Danny Gallagher

Danny was born in Ted Lindsay's hometown of Renfrew, Ont. but his roots are in nearby Douglas. He played 27 consecutive seasons of top-level amateur baseball in the senior ranks in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec and thrived on organizing events himself, the major one being the highly successful 1983 Canadian senior men's tournament in Sudbury. He began covering the Montreal Expos in 1988 when he joined the Montreal Daily News. Later, he was the Expos beat writer for the Ottawa Sun and Associated Press. He has written four baseball books, including Remembering the Montreal Expos, which he co-authored with Bill Young of Hudson, Que. Gallagher and Young are currently working on a book about the ill-fated 1994 Expos squad. Gallagher can be reached here: dannogallagher@rogers.com