TAMPA, Fla. — Troy Tulowitzki took a called third strike in his first simulated game of spring training and followed with a drive down the right-field line that would have been over Yankee Stadium’s right-field wall.

“Honestly I feel good, ready to go,” he said. “Just excited to play.”

Now 34, the five-time All-Star has not played in the major leagues since July 2017. He is projected to start at shortstop for the New York Yankees while Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery.

Tulowitzki missed last season because of bone spurs in his right and left heels.

“Taking a full year off was tough for me,” he said. “But I think it’s built some character, it’s built some toughness, and it makes you appreciate it that much more being out there. It’s been a long road. It’s took it’s toll but I’m still here standing.”

Gregorius is expected to return to the Yankees between June and August. Tulowitzki isn’t expressing worry about his role.

“I care about just doing the best job I can to fill in for Didi,” he said. “Things work themselves out.”

Tulowitzki topped .300 or better four times from 2010-14 and 90 RBI from 2009-11, boosted by Colorado’s hitter-friendly Coors Field.

He agreed last month to a one-year contract with the Yankees for the major league minimum $555,000. That will be offset against the $20 million he is owed by Toronto, which released him.

The Blue Jays also are responsible for $14 million in salary for 2020 plus a $4 million buyout of a 2021 team option.

“The question now for him is going to be the ability to bounce back, and can he endure the rigors of being a regular,” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said. “He looks really good moving around in the field and where he’s at with his swing.”

ATHLETICS: Oakland will take a look at Robbie Grossman as a potential leadoff man when it opens spring play.

The Athletics host the Mariners on Thursday as the teams get a head start on spring training games. Both teams will also open the regular season ahead of the rest of the league when they face each other in Japan on March 20 and 21.

Oakland Manager Bob Melvin wanted to get Grossman in the leadoff spot as soon as he could. The A’s signed the free agent outfielder last Friday.

TWINS: Rocco Baldelli has been quite tight-lipped about his plans for the closer role entering his first season as manager.

Gone is three-time All-Star Fernando Rodney, who was traded to Oakland last August for minor league pitcher Dakota Chalmers. Rodney, who will turn 42 next month, had 25 saves for the Twins last season and has 325 for his career to rank 18th in major league history.

That deal created an opening for four returners: right-handers Trevor Hildenberger (seven saves last year), Trevor May (three saves) and Addison Reed (125 career saves) and left-hander Taylor Rogers (two saves last year).

Plus, the Twins signed Blake Parker, a righty who had 14 saves for the Los Angeles Angels last season and became a free agent, and right-hander Fernando Romero, converted to relief after making 11 starts for the Twins last year.

GIANTS: Buster Posey most likely will not catch in any spring training games until early March, Manager Bruce Bochy said Wednesday.

Posey, who had surgery in August to address a hip impingement and repair a torn labrum, has been catching pitchers’ side sessions in camp so far.

“I’m very encouraged and he is, too,” Bochy said. “He’s not feeling any effects from the surgery or the hip so he’s doing really well.

“It’s all good to go with him. We’re probably looking around the first of March, in that area.”

METS: Infielder Jed Lowrie will have an MRI Thursday.

Starting a $20 million, two-year contract, Lowrie noticed the back of his left knee started to hurt last weekend after he was running.

TIGERS: A person familiar with the negotiations said free agent Josh Harrison has agreed to a one-year deal with the  Tigers.

The 31-year-old Harrison spent his first eight major league seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He’s played second base, third base, shortstop and in the outfield.

Harrison did not have a great 2018 at the plate, hitting .250 with eight home runs and 37 RBI. He missed time early in the season with a hand injury and ended up playing just 97 games.