Tebow’s quest to make an unlikely transition from professional football to professional baseball took a hit, mostly because of his inability to hit Grapefruit League pitching. The former Broncos and Jets player went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts Tuesday against the Astros, leaving him with just one hit in 18 at-bats, plus 11 strikeouts, to start the spring.
Befitting his relentlessly upbeat nature, Tebow took the demotion in stride. “It’s not like it’s a shock,” he said (via Newsday). “They were super honest the whole time. We have great relationships and conversations. It’s not like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ So it’s all good.”
It hasn’t helped Tebow’s cause that he’s been dealing with an ankle injury he suffered after stepping on an outfield sprinkler head in late February. That kept him out of several games and limited him to designated hitter duties, and Tebow described the injury as “frustrating,” while adding, “You deal with it, make the best of it.”
“Unfortunately I couldn’t do as much as I wanted to with my ankle, which is disappointing,” the 30-year-old said. “But I got to put in a lot of good work and feel like I’m improving, so that’s good.”
Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson had said that the team put Tebow, who spent 2017 at the Class A level in his first year of organized baseball since he was a junior in high school, in its major league camp this spring to “accelerate his development.” Alderson has claimed on multiple occasions that he expects Tebow to reach the major leagues at some point, which the latter agreed Tuesday was “definitely the goal.”
“We’ll be putting in work every day to one day get that opportunity, but you can’t just be focused on the end result. It’s got be on every day in the process,” Tebow said (via the AP).
For years, Tebow worked to make the most of his opportunities in football, which included a legendary career at Florida that netted him the aforementioned Heisman and two national titles. He was a first-round pick by Denver in 2010, and helped lead the team to a playoff win the following season, but he was traded to the Jets in March 2012 after the Broncos signed the biggest free agent of that period: Peyton Manning.
Tebow lasted just one season in New York, where he played sparingly despite the struggles of starting quarterback Mark Sanchez, then became a football free agent for most of the next three years. He announced his decision to pursue a baseball career in August 2016 and was signed by the Mets the following month.
In 126 games split nearly evenly between the Mets’ low-A affiliate in Columbia, S.C., and their high-A affiliate in St. Lucie, Fla., Tebow batted .226 with eight home runs, 52 RBI, 43 walks and a .656 OPS. That suggested he had plenty of work to do to reach the majors, but given his age, the Mets want to try to hasten his development, and he is expected to start this season at the AA level.
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