DUNEDIN, Fla. — The Yankees don’t visit Toronto until early June, so Troy Tulowitzki will have to wait a while before he returns to Rogers Centre, where he played for parts of the past four seasons before the Blue Jays released him in December with $38 million left on his contract.
But the 34-year-old got a small preview of what the reception might be like when he was booed during his first at-bat against his old team Thursday at Dunedin Stadium.
Tulowitzki whiffed to end the top of the first against Blue Jays starter Matt Shoemaker, much to the delight of the sun-drenched crowd.
“I heard little bit of both,’’ Tulowitzki said after the Yankees and Blue Jays tied 1-1. “Fans come to the game because they like to have fun. I like to be out there. … You hear it, but you don’t pay attention to it. I keep saying this [the] whole spring: It’s just fun being out there playing baseball.”
Tulowitzki’s afternoon improved with a single up the middle in the fourth and a walk, which he ended with a bat flip on the way to first, two innings later.
It was an improvement over the 0-for-12, nine-strikeout stretch Tulowitzki recently ended. That skid normally wouldn’t draw much notice, but since he missed nearly a year and a half due to leg injuries, it could have been cause for concern.
“It’s baseball,’’ Tulowitzki said of the rough patch. “It’s a tough game. It’s gonna happen to everyone on our team, probably, at some point in the season. In my case, I’ve been playing the game for so long, you realize you take the good with the bad.”
Aaron Boone said he’s seen more good than bad.
“He had a couple more good at-bats and smoked a ball and played well in the field,’’ the manager said of Tulowitzki, who is scheduled to start at short again on Friday against the Red Sox at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
“He has a lot to prove,’’ Boone said. “One thing we noticed right away is that there’s a confidence in how he’s feeling which, in getting to know him and talking to him this winter, he hasn’t been healthy the last couple years. I think he knows he’s healthy now. … I think he’s kind of hungry and eager to prove that he can still really do this.’’
Freddy Galvis, who many believed the Yankees would pursue as a free agent to fill in for Didi Gregorius as he rehabs from offseason Tommy John surgery, started at short for Toronto.
The Yankees instead signed Tulowitzki to the veteran’s minimum salary and he’s pleased with how his spring has gone — and not concerned with his past with the Blue Jays.
“I’m back playing again,’’ Tulowitzki said. “I’m enjoying that. I’m not getting caught up in anything else other than what I need to do: take care of myself and my body to play games for the Yankees and help us win.”
He noted his time with Toronto wasn’t all bad, despite ending in his release when the team opted to go in a different direction with younger players. Toronto made the ALCS in both 2015 and 2016, losing each time before consecutive sub-.500 seasons that ended manager John Gibbons’ tenure after last season.
“I have friends on the team and people in the organization that stuck by my side,’’ Tulowitzki said. “That brought back some memories here. We were good, man. We had some good teams here and made some deep runs [into the postseason]. I remember all those playoff games and my teammates.’’