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

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TAMPA, Fla. — No one from the Yankees needed to inform Miguel Andujar he may have to discover a new home on the baseball diamond this 12 months.

Andujar, the runner-up for the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2018, entered final season as one among baseball’s brightest younger stars. But 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 might drive him out of nearly all the 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Andujar watched third baseman Gio Urshela, a comparatively unknown reserve participant, seize management of his outdated spot and grow to be one of many saving graces of the Yankees’ injury-ravaged 2019 marketing campaign together with his stout protection and breakout hitting.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, together 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 had to work and be ready this year to give my best wherever on the field and support the team,” Andujar stated in a latest interview.

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

“When we first broached the subject with him, he was excited about it and even told us he had started to do some things on his own,” Boone stated.

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 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. During spring coaching video games, he stated, he expects to play all three positions.

“I feel like he has the athletic ability to do it, to be able to move around and hopefully add to his versatility,” Boone stated. “And with the quality and the depth of our roster, it could be something that’s important not only for him, but potentially for us, too.”

To admire the significance of depth, the Yankees solely have to look to final season, when, by way of shrewd strikes and deep pockets, they managed to resist a significant league document 30 totally different gamers touchdown on the injured record.

Despite 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 hung out 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 home runs final 12 months, there’s all the time the opportunity of regression after the breakout season, which might put Andujar again at his outdated place.

But for now, he doesn’t begrudge Urshela his taking up third base. The two are pals and never rivals. “He was tremendous last season and helped the team a ton,” Andujar stated.

Before General Manager 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 turning 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 keep this dynamic bat where it plays?’” Cashman stated of Soriano in November. “I can’t dispute that I’ve run that through my mind about Andujar, too.”

In the previous, some have bristled at being known as utility gamers, a label Andujar might earn, as a result of it implied they weren’t adequate at one place to play there on daily basis. But 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 received the 2016 N.L. Most Valuable Player Award whereas bouncing between third base and the outfield) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (winners of seven straight division titles with a roster stuffed with Swiss Army knife gamers, led by first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger, the 2019 N.L. M.V.P.).

Andujar, whose identify surfaced in commerce talks over the winter, stated he would like to stick with the Yankees, and at third base — the one place and group he has ever recognized. “But I want to contribute to the team,” he stated. “And whatever decisions are made, I’ll take them positively.”

That consists of doubtlessly 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 12 months, the primary misplaced season of his profession. He is hoping 2020 appears extra like 2018, when he smashed 27 home runs and batted .297.

“The results so far have been positive,” he stated, “and I’m happy with how I’ve responded to this.”