PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP/CBS SF) — Tim Tebow made his first rookie mistake even before stepping into the batter’s box.
The New York Mets newcomer walked behind home plate and took his practice swings near Boston’s on-deck circle.
“I didn’t know who that was back there. I thought it was the ball boy,” AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello said.
Tebow’s debut as a big leaguer didn’t go much better Wednesday.
The former NFL quarterback went 0 for 3, twice looking at strike three and also grounding into a double play with the bases loaded in a spring training exhibition against the Red Sox.
Tebow did safely reach when he was hit by a pitch in the right shoulder. But his stay on base was brief — he got doubled off first on a line drive.
“It was a first day for me getting to compete. I’ll learn a lot from it. It’s kind of what I expected from a competition level,” he said.
The 29-year-old Tebow batted eighth as the designated hitter. Signed last fall, he’s in camp on a minor league contract, hoping to make it as an outfielder. He’s next scheduled to play for the Mets in a split-squad game Friday against Houston, and manager Terry Collins said Tebow would be in the field.
Tebow’s day started out with a fun-filled morning stretch. He was loudly welcomed by slugger Yoenis Cespedes and kidded by Pittsburgh native Neil Walker — the second baseman barbed Tebow for once leading the Denver Broncos over the Steelers in the playoffs. Tebow warmed up by swatting a few home runs in batting practice.
To say Tebow’s first game was a success, however, would be a stretch. He did, at least, get to slap high-fives on the field after an 8-7 win in front of 6,538 fans.
“With almost anything I do, I get a little nervous because I care about it, the outcome and my teammates,” Tebow said. “But I’d also get nervous if I was going to talk to a high school football team before a game.”
Tebow was set to lead off the third inning for his first at-bat. The lefty hitter emerged from the Mets’ dugout on the third base side and crossed over to the Boston side, drifting toward the Red Sox on-deck circle and inching his way into Porcello’s view.
“I thought you walked around because you’re a left-hander. I found out you don’t do that,” he said.
The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner then faced Porcello, prompting some to figure out another matchup between Heisman and Cy Young winners — Bo Jackson vs. Frank Viola, for example.
Tebow drew a nice cheer when he stepped in wearing a No. 97 jersey with no name on the back. He swung late on a fastball to fall behind and was caught looking at a 92 mph heater on a 1-2 count. He had a friendly word and smile for plate umpire Ryan Additon after being called out.
Tebow came up next with the bases loaded and bounced into a double play against Noe Ramirez. A run scored on the grounder, but Tebow didn’t get credit for an RBI.
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