SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If shortstop Troy Tulowitzki's wish had come true, he'd have been wearing the red, white and blue in the Team USA World Baseball Classic exhibition game with the Rockies on Wednesday night at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
Instead, he wore purple pinstripes and a smile.
Last season, Tulowitzki didn't play after May 30 because of a groin issue that required surgery to remove scar tissue. World Baseball Classic rules were designed to protect teams against having to worry about players with significant injuries the previous year being re-injured in the games. Tulowitzki was left off the original roster and, although he worked out for the Classic officials who made insurance decisions, wasn't added later.
But Tulowitzki, 28, is putting one health test after another behind him. Going into his start against Team USA -- which marked the first time he had started consecutive games in Spring Training -- Tulowitzki was 3-for-15 (.200) with three RBIs. More importantly, he has handled a variety of sudden movements defensively and on the bases.
"Every day that goes by, I'm much more confident and a smile on my face knowing all that rehab, all those hours in the offseason, I can see it paying off," Tulowitzki said. "I'm happy about that, but I know I'm not free yet. The season hasn't started. There are still some games in Spring Training. I definitely like where I am."
Tulowitzki insisted there was no special message in his playing Tuesday night. It just so happened his playing schedule worked that way.
But for March 6, he admitted, it was pretty cool.
"It just worked out that way with the schedule," Tulowitzki said. "It'll be cool to see some of those guys that I know. To play against the best is always cool. I definitely wish them luck and hopefully they'll represent us well."
He also said he understands why he's not wearing his country's colors in the Classic.
"They [the Rockies] had to make a decision," he said. "I think the Rockies as an organization would rather have me in camp working with [second baseman Josh] Rutledge and also the insurance didn't quite add up. That probably played a factor."
Tulowitzki hasn't attempted to beat out an infield roller. Then again, guys with two Rawlings Gold Glove Awards and two Silver Sluggers don't do that in February and single-digit dates in March, even when coming off a healthy year. But sudden-instinct plays are coming off without a hitch or a limp.
"Defensively, I feel like I've been challenged," Tulowitzki said. "I've dived back to the base on pickoffs. To leave your feet is kind of an instinct. I had a couple of baserunning things, but I've done so much of that on the back field and done it so hard that I'm not like, 'Well, this is going to be interesting.'"
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.