Batting leadoff, Tulo smacks first spring homer

Bautista expected to make Grapefruit League debut next week

Batting leadoff, Tulo smacks first spring homer

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Troy Tulowitzki won't be hitting leadoff during the regular season, but that's where he was Saturday in the Blue Jays' 9-6 win over the Phillies. The All-Star shortstop got things started with a bang as he went deep to left field.

Tulowitzki sent a 2-1 pitch from Philadelphia's Aaron Nola over the wall for his first home run of the spring. The solo shot was the start of a four-run inning for the Blue Jays. Michael Saunders followed with a three-run shot later in the frame.

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The 31-year-old Tulowitzki made his spring debut on Friday afternoon against the Orioles, going 0-for-1 with a walk.

"He hasn't played many games yet, but he hit that homer today, and he smoked that ball," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "There's a lot to Tulo's swing, so timing is huge for him. We'll get him more at-bats, and the better off he'll be."

Tulowitzki, who finished 1-for-3, spent part of last season hitting leadoff for the Blue Jays, but he's going to begin this year as the No. 5 hitter behind Edwin Encarnacion. Gibbons had Tulowitzki hitting in the top spot Saturday afternoon simply to get him an extra at-bat.

Around the horn
• Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista has yet to appear in a spring game, but that is expected to change at some point next week. Gibbons said that Bautista could possibly play on Thursday in a road game against the Yankees. Bautista isn't injured, but Toronto wanted to give him a delayed start to Spring Training after last year's deep run into the postseason.

• Blue Jays top pitching prospect Conner Greene made his spring debut during Saturday. Greene entered in the seventh inning and struck out three of the four batters he faced en route to a scoreless frame. The 20-year-old hit 98 mph on the radar gun and showed why Toronto's front office has been so high on him recently.

"Very impressive," Gibbons said. "He has that dynamite arm, but he's throwing strikes with it. You could tell he was excited. I think that's kind of his personality -- he was loose and having fun out there. Not many arms better than that.

"The key, at a young age, is throwing strikes. A lot of times you can find good arms, but they haven't harnessed it yet. Looks like he has a pretty good idea."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.