TAMPA, Fla. — Nobody from the Yankees needed to inform Miguel Andujar he would possibly must discover a new house on the baseball diamond this yr.
Andujar, the runner-up for the American League Rookie of the Yr Award in 2018, entered final season as considered one of baseball’s brightest younger stars. However on March 31, simply three video games into the 2019 season, he tore cartilage in his throwing shoulder on a seemingly innocuous slide into third base, an harm that will pressure him out of practically the whole remainder of the season.
As he underwent a number of months of rehabilitation after surgical procedure, Andujar watched third baseman Gio Urshela, a comparatively unknown reserve participant, seize management of his previous spot and turn into one of many saving graces of the Yankees’ injury-ravaged 2019 marketing campaign along with his stout protection and breakout hitting.
Andujar, 24, already recognized extra for his bat than his glove, might foretell what this all meant. So in August, along with his teammates surging towards an A.L. East title and a deep playoff run, Andujar approached his agent with an thought: It was time to study some new positions, possibly left area and first base.
“We realized that we needed to work and be prepared this yr to offer my greatest wherever on the sector and help the crew,” Andujar mentioned in a current interview.
It was a humbling realization for a participant who so not too long ago appeared poised to lock down the Yankees’ third base spot for years to return. However by the point Yankees Supervisor Aaron Boone met with Andujar on the crew’s facility within the Dominican Republic final month and talked about these two new positions, Andujar mentioned he was manner forward of his supervisor.
“Once we first broached the topic with him, he was enthusiastic about it and even advised us he had began to do some issues on his personal,” Boone mentioned.
So Andujar spent the autumn and winter not solely rehabilitating the injured labrum in his proper shoulder but additionally working with a personal coach right here in Tampa to enhance his agility so he might deal with third and first base, and left area. (He had additionally labored the earlier winter and spring to higher his shaky protection at third base.)
He started taking floor balls and fly balls on the different positions within the Dominican Republic and in Tampa. Throughout spring coaching video games, he mentioned, he expects to play all three positions.
“I really feel like he has the athletic capacity to do it, to have the ability to transfer round and hopefully add to his versatility,” Boone mentioned. “And with the standard and the depth of our roster, it could possibly be one thing that’s essential not just for him, however probably for us, too.”
To understand the significance of depth, the Yankees solely must look to final season, when, via shrewd strikes and deep pockets, they managed to face up to a significant league file 30 totally different gamers touchdown on the injured record.
Regardless of an overhauled medical and coaching employees for the 2020 season, the roster could also be in flux once more this season.
The Yankees might use a revolving door of gamers in left area, from Giancarlo Stanton to Mike Tauchman to Clint Frazier — all of whom frolicked on the injured record final season. And when middle fielder Aaron Hicks returns from elbow surgical procedure over the summer season, Brett Gardner might slide over to left, too. At first base, the Yankees have Luke Voit (who’s recovering from low season core-muscle surgical procedure), the multipositional star D.J. LeMahieu and Mike Ford.
And whereas Urshela was excellent with a .314 common and 21 house runs final yr, there may be all the time the potential of regression after the breakout season, which might put Andujar again at his previous place.
However for now, he doesn’t begrudge Urshela his taking on third base. The 2 are associates and never rivals. “He was large final season and helped the crew a ton,” Andujar mentioned.
Earlier than Basic Supervisor Brian Cashman proclaimed this winter that third base was Urshela’s job to lose, he likened Andujar’s scenario to that of the previous Yankees slugger Alfonso Soriano, a pure shortstop who realized left area within the spring of 2001 earlier than ultimately changing into the on a regular basis second baseman within the main leagues. (An All-Star named Derek Jeter was already entrenched because the Yankees’ on a regular basis shortstop.)
“It was, ‘How can we maintain this dynamic bat the place it performs?’” Cashman mentioned of Soriano in November. “I can’t dispute that I’ve run that via my thoughts about Andujar, too.”
Previously, some have bristled at being referred to as utility gamers, a label Andujar might earn, as a result of it implied they weren’t ok at one place to play there day-after-day. However that has lessened with the success of Ben Zobrist (who earned a four-year, $56-million contract as a utility participant in 2015), Kris Bryant (who gained the 2016 N.L. Most Invaluable Participant Award whereas bouncing between third base and the outfield) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (winners of seven straight division titles with a roster filled with Swiss Military knife gamers, led by first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger, the 2019 N.L. M.V.P.).
Andujar, whose title surfaced in commerce talks over the winter, mentioned he would like to stick with the Yankees, and at third base — the one place and group he has ever recognized. “However I wish to contribute to the crew,” he mentioned. “And no matter selections are made, I’ll take them positively.”
That features probably having him begin within the minor leagues, ought to the Yankees have an excessive amount of of a logjam or if Andujar wants extra time to mud off the rust from final season or grasp his new positions.
Wherever he finally ends up, will probably be preferable to the lonely scenario he skilled final yr, the primary misplaced season of his profession. He’s hoping 2020 seems extra like 2018, when he smashed 27 house runs and batted .297.
“The outcomes to date have been constructive,” he mentioned, “and I’m proud of how I’ve responded to this.”
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