(Reuters) – Tim Tebow had a rough start in his first game with the Major League Baseball’s New York Mets on Wednesday as the former NFL quarterback struck out twice and was hit by a pitch in a Spring Training exhibition game.
Tebow, a former Heisman Trophy winner as the top college football player while at the University of Florida, struck out in his first at-bat against reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello.
When Tebow, 29, returned to the plate in the fourth inning with the bases loaded and none out he grounded into a double play yet received an unexpected standing ovation and high-fives from his teammates since a runner scored on the play.
The run tied the game against the Boston Red Sox at 4-4 and New York went on to win 8-7 in their home park in Port St. Lucie, Florida, where Tebow still has a loyal following.
The lefty-swinging Tebow was hit on his right shoulder by a pitch from lefthander Brian Johnson in the sixth and was doubled off first base on a line drive. He struck out looking in his last at-bat.
“I think I learned a lot of things,” Tebow, considered a massive long-shot to make a major league roster, told reporters. “Just getting in there and seeing pitches for the first time, competing.
“It was the first day for me, getting a chance to compete, and I’ll learn a lot from it.”
Tebow, who batted eighth in the order and wore No. 97, is in minor league camp, but the Mets borrowed him Wednesday for their split-squad game against Boston.
They plan to do the same on Friday against the Houston Astros, with Tebow likely to make his debut in the outfield.
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)