GLENDALE, Ariz.—So far, so good for Tim Tebow in his first taste of the Arizona Fall League. No, he didn’t reach base, but he didn’t look completely out of place either.
He grounded out three times in his debut, which lasted five innings before he was lifted for Phillies outfielder Aaron Brown for the last half of the game.
In the second inning, facing Nationals righthander Austin Voth, Tebow worked the count full before rolling over a pitch for a grounder to second base. He did the same thing in his next trip, this time facing Astros righty Rogelio Armenteros, but this time his grounder was productive.
Angels catcher Taylor Ward preceded Tebow’s at-bat with a double. Tebow’s grounder moved Ward to third. The next batter, fellow Mets prospect Matt Oberste, hit a sacrifice fly to center to bring home Ward.
“It was fun. Obviously I wish I could have done a little bit more and gotten a couple of hits, but it was fun,” Tebow said. “Knocked a little rust off.”
In his third at-bat, facing Cardinals lefthander Corey Littrell, Tebow hit a nubber in front of home plate. He didn’t realize the ball was fair and was tagged out easily by catcher Carson Kelly.
Tebow acknowledged there’s still considerable rust to knock off, which is expected because of the decade-long layoff between the last time he’d played competitive baseball at Nease High in Florida, and signing his contract with the Mets.
“I felt like I saw the pitches well,” he said. “I just rolled over a couple pitches I should have done more with, but it was fun.”
He made one catch in the outfield, a can of corn off the bat of Nationals third baseman Drew Ward, and nearly ran down a ball in the left-center field alleyway. Instead, he face-planted into the wall while Dodgers prospect Cody Bellinger scampered to second base with a double.
“I knew it was hit well, so I just tried to make a play on it,” he said. “I was going pretty hard and thought I had another step or two (before the wall) and then I ran into the wall. I’ve been hit harder, though, so I’m OK.”
It wasn’t anywhere near a full house for Tebow’s first game. The announced attendance was 912, or a little more than double the amount that showed up for the AFL’s other day game.
The fans who did show up for Tebow were vocal. Some cheered him, some razzed him and a gaggle of them—included a trio in military fatigues—gathered down the left-field line before and after the game waiting for Tebow sign autographs.
As was the case after his workout on Monday night, the crowd broke out into a ‘TEBOW! TEBOW! TEBOW!” chant as their hero approached.
It was only the first day, but Tebow was encouraged by the results. This is only the first step, however. No matter his numbers over the next six weeks, he plans to come to spring training with the Mets in February and compete for a spot on one of the team’s four full-season clubs.
“Absolutely,” he said.
NEWS AND NOTES
• Yankees righthander Dillon Tate, acquired from the Rangers in the Carlos Beltran trade, pitched two innings of one-run ball in relief of starter Corey Oswalt. Tate, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 draft out of UC Santa Barbara, sat between 94-96 mph with his fastball and touched 97 twice, including once to finish off a strikeout of Cardinals prospect Harrison Bader. Tate also got swings and misses on his slider and changeup, both of which parked in the mid-80s. He struck out three and yielded a three-run home run to Kelly.
• Mets shortstop prospect Gavin Cecchini was 2-for-3 with a double and a pair of RBIs in his team’s win.
• Bader collected three hits in the game, including a hard line drive up the middle that ricocheted off the instep of Phillies righthander Miguel Nunez. Nunez was checked out by trainers but stayed in the game.
• Converted Cardinals catcher Rowan Wick sat between 92-94 mph with his fastball and complemented the pitch with a loopy curveball in the mid-70s. The righthander struck out one in two innings of one-run ball.
• Nationals shortstop Osvaldo Abreu made an impressive play early in the game. He ranged deep in the hole to corral Angels outfielder Michael Hermosillo‘s grounder, then whirled and made a leaping throw to first in time to get the out.
• Yankees first baseman Greg Bird, in his first competitive game this season after missing the year with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, was 1-for-4 with a double.