Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki sees the World Baseball Classic as a proving ground, a way to test his healed left groin in a far more competitive environment than the Cactus League. He hopes to play for Team USA team but wasn't named Jan. 17 to the provisional roster due to his injury-plagued 2012 season, and he likely won't be on the team due to insurance considerations.
Team USA announced 27 of its 28 players, and the last addition is expected to be a starting pitcher. The final roster must be submitted by Feb. 20.
This is the third time the WBC will be held, but unlike 2006 and 2009, no Rockies were included on the Team USA roster.
First-round WBC play will be held at the Salt River Fields complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., where the Rockies train. That was another enticement for Tulowitzki, who played just 47 games last season for the Rockies. He strained his left groin turning a double play in the second game of the season. On May 30, Tulowitzki aggravated the injury breaking from the batter's box. On June 21, he underwent surgery to have scar tissue removed that was irritating a nerve in the groin area.
Tulowitzki qualifies under various WBC criteria as "a chronic condition player." In order to play in the WBC, Tulowitzki, who has $144 million remaining on his contract, must be approved by the company that insures players' contracts in the event they are injured in the WBC. If Tulowitzki passes that hurdle, he would have to be cleared by Rockies doctors.
In midseason last year, Tulowitzki played a total of nine rehab games -- three at Class AAA Colorado Springs and six at Class AA Tulsa -- but never got to the point where he felt fully comfortable or confident about playing at game speed in the majors. He and the Rockies had hoped he'd return before the end of the season, but it never happened, which frustrated both Tulowitzki and the organization. Regardless, Tulowitzki's long 2012 ordeal is behind him and will propel him into the upcoming season.
"The biggest thing is that I felt like I was letting my team down," he said. "I know there are people who doubt me, thinking I am soft. That only drives me. As an athlete, you find things that get you going. I didn't have to look far. I want to prove people wrong."
Tulowitzki, 28, views WBC games as a welcome contrast from those in spring training.
"Spring training you only go so hard," he said. "I really like the idea of getting tested right off the bat. I can't wait to play nine innings again. Hopefully, that will answer some questions right away."
Tulowitzki's contract runs through 2020 with a club option for 2021 or a $4 million buyout. The WBC would need to insure that amount, given the magnitude of the financial risk. Roster adjustments could occur if other players are injured. Exhibition games begin Feb. 23, so WBC officials can gauge Tulowitzki's health before deciding whether insurance is worth the risk.
It seems unlikely that Tulowitzki will play in the tournament. The Rockies are willing to let him do so but certainly would rather he not miss three weeks of spring training. They'd prefer he remain in camp, where they can closely monitor his activity.
"We're looking forward to having Tulo back on the field and playing with the Rockies," said Bill Geivett, senior vice president of major league operations. "No matter what he does leading up to Opening Day, what's important is to see him out there playing at Coors Field. We're pretty excited to see that."