Miguel Andujar’s Recovery: Rehab, Then Learn 2 New Positions

Written by on February 14, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. — Nobody from the Yankees needed to inform Miguel Andujar he may have to discover a new house on the baseball diamond this yr.

Andujar, the runner-up for the American League Rookie of the 12 months Award in 2018, entered final season as one in every 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 power him out of practically your entire remainder of the season.

As he underwent a number of months of rehabilitation after surgical procedure, Andujar watched third baseman Gio Urshela, a relatively unknown reserve player, seize control of his old spot and grow to be one of many saving graces of the Yankees’ injury-ravaged 2019 marketing campaign along with his stout protection and breakout hitting.

Andujar, 24, already identified 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 concept: It was time to be taught 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 workforce,” Andujar mentioned in a latest interview.

It was a humbling realization for a participant who so just lately appeared poised to lock down the Yankees’ third base spot for years to come back. However by the point Yankees Supervisor Aaron Boone met with Andujar on the workforce’s facility within the Dominican Republic final month and talked about these two new positions, Andujar mentioned he was method forward of his supervisor.

“After 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 in addition working with a non-public 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 better his shaky defense 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 skill 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 vital not just for him, however probably for us, too.”

To understand the significance of depth, the Yankees solely have to look to final season, when, by means of shrewd moves and deep pockets, they managed to resist a serious league report 30 completely different gamers touchdown on the injured checklist.

Regardless of an overhauled medical and coaching workers 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 checklist final season. And when heart fielder Aaron Hicks returns from elbow surgical procedure over the summer time, 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’s all the time the potential for 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 super final season and helped the workforce 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 state of affairs to that of the previous Yankees slugger Alfonso Soriano, a pure shortstop who realized left field in the spring of 2001 earlier than finally 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 hold this dynamic bat the place it performs?’” Cashman mentioned of Soriano in November. “I can’t dispute that I’ve run that by means of my thoughts about Andujar, too.”

Prior to now, some have bristled at being known 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 by 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 full of Swiss Army knife players, led by first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger, the 2019 N.L. M.V.P.).

Andujar, whose identify 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 identified. “However I need to contribute to the workforce,” 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, it will likely be preferable to the lonely state of affairs he skilled final yr, the primary misplaced season of his profession. He’s hoping 2020 appears extra like 2018, when he smashed 27 house runs and batted .297.

“The outcomes up to now have been constructive,” he mentioned, “and I’m proud of how I’ve responded to this.”


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