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Toronto’s Troy Tulowitzki catches Tampa Bay’s Brad Miller trying to steal second base during the second inning of Tuesday’s game in St. Petersburg, Fla.Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Troy Tulowitzki does not set up like a normal player on the infield when a ground ball is struck in his general vicinity.

The Toronto Blue Jays shortstop is like a painter approaching a canvas, confident enough in his creative abilities that the end result is going to be another work of art.

Tulowitzki does not confront the oncoming ball rocketing toward him as much as he stalks it with a hunter's patience, carefully gauging his options in the miniscule moments he has at his disposal.

He will always try to manoeuvre his body in front of the ball before it inevitably nestles safely in the pocket of his glove.

While still galloping along, Tulowitzki will then gracefully whirl and make an accurate throw to first base to get the runner, all the while making the difficult look impossibly easy.

"It's definitely different," Tulowitzki said about his defensive stylings. "No one else really plays it like me. I don't know, I just think over the years it's kind of evolved to what it is now. It's obviously an aggressive mindset.

"It's different, but it's something that I understand and what I feel best doing. It's just the way I go about things."

Tulowitzki said he studied the habits of recent greats such as Cal Ripken Jr., Mike Bordick, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter when he was younger to help him learn his fielding craft, where he tries to circle the ball slightly as he moves in toward it.

"Getting around the baseball is obviously my goal, trying to make everything look as routine as possible even though it might be a hard play," Tulowitzki said during an interview at Tropicana Field here on Tuesday as the Blue Jays continued their season-opening series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

"I think it really started in college," Tulowitzki continued. "We weren't really allowed to go to the backhand fielding grounders so I just think, working so hard to get around the baseball, it's something I've grown accustomed to."

And when he throws the ball, Tulowitzki most always seems to be doing it while running, a habit he said he fell into at an early age and simply continued because he was good at it.

Whatever the reasons for what he does, the results continue to be impressive – even if the glove that Tulowitzki stubbornly continues to employ looks like it belongs in the Tony Kubek era.

Tulowitzki insists the battered and bruised hunk of leather is only six or seven years old.

"It looks a little older than that, but I have a backup one – finally got a backup one," Tulowitzki said. "It's running its course here, towards the end of its life. But I think it still has a year left in it."

Tulowitzki said the ratty looking number had nothing to do with the lone defensive misstep he has taken this year, Monday night during the sixth inning of Toronto's 5-3 win over the Rays.

The ball appeared to get lodged in the pocket after Tulowitzki fielded a ground ball off the bat of Desmond Jennings. The momentary delay in making the transfer to his throwing hand allowed Jennings to beat the throw to first.

"It wasn't the glove's fault or anything like that," the Toronto player said. "But I definitely should have made [the play]."

As far as Toronto manager John Gibbons is concerned, Tulowitzki could be playing barehanded and still come up rosy.

Gibbons noted there is a reason that baseball websites rate the 31-year-old as the best defensive shortstop of all time based on the game's advanced metrics.

"Even if he doesn't hit a lick, man, we're that much better" with Tulowitzki patrolling shortstop, Gibbons said.

And with Tulowitzki's defensive acumen seemingly rubbing off on the likes of Kevin Pillar, Ryan Goins and even Josh Donaldson, a Blue Jays outfit always thought of as more of an offensive juggernaut is starting to draw rave reviews for its defensive savvy.

"I think if you look around each guy, not only are they pretty good offensively but defensively they can hold their own," Tulowitzki said, adding: "Everybody just looks at our offence, but when you really sit down and look at it, it's like these guys who are offensive can really play defence. You don't get that too much on a team. It's either one or the other."

When it comes to the attributes he values most in a solid defensive shortstop, Tulowitzki said sound fundamentals are key.

"The routine play's got to be made," he said. "Cutting down on mental mistakes, really. If you're able, through the course of a long season, to cut down on that, it's going to make for a better fielding season."

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