Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Days before Miguel Andujar decided to have season-ending shoulder surgery last May, the team was preparing to option him to Triple-A Scranton.
Andujar had finished in second place the year before in American League Rookie of the Year voting, but was not performing after a return from the disabled list. The Yankees couldn't carry him anymore.
Everyone involved concluded that the issue was injury, not talent or skill, so Andujar made the difficult decision to shut it down for the year.
Now Andujar is back, and the Yanks hope that his Grapefruit League home run on Sunday served as an early hint that he will not be the shell of himself who nearly tumbled back down to the minors last year -- but the dynamic hitter who stormed through his first trip around the American League in 2018.
If Andujar continues to produce in exhibition games, questions will intensify about where he fits. But after asking about this in several conversations with Yankees people this spring, we have a pretty clear view of the organization's stance: They're just glad he's back, and will figure out the details later.
Barring a terrible spring, Gio Urshela is set as the starting third baseman. Manager Aaron Boone made this clear in a recent interview with SNY, while also adding that Urshela will have to continue to perform in the job if he wants to keep it. You could say that Urshela's job security is far greater than Clint Frazier's, but worse than Aaron Judge's.
Boone has been impressed this spring, though not surprised, by Andujar's work ethic and embrace of whatever role he finds. In one of their first conversations this year, Andujar begged to play as soon as possible once the Grapefruit League season began. He is happy to learn left field and first base.
If all of his teammates are healthy -- a big if in a Yankees camp that has already seen Judge and Luis Severino miss time -- Andujar might have to begin the season at Triple-A. He has options, and is behind Urshela at third, Luke Voit at first, and Brett Gardner and Mike Tauchman in left field.
If the roster does shake out that way, Andujar likely won't remain down for long. It's still unclear if either Voit or Urshela will become mainstays --- though the former will benefit from surgery to repair the sports hernia that limited him last year, and the latter carries a legitimate set of tools on the field.
Judge and Stanton have struggled in recent years to remain on the field, opening up possible outfield and DH at-bats for Andujar.
As for where he fits in an ideal world? It's hard to say. Last spring, the Yankees were working on Andujar's first step movements in an effort to improve his range at third. Team evaluators were optimistic about his progress, and had not determined that he would ultimately have to move positions.
Because of Andujar's past issues with throwing, perhaps first base will be his final home. Perhaps he'll never be an average defender anywhere.
Truly, the Yankees don't need to know yet. Injuries and performance tend to sort out questions like this, and for now, the team is just happy to see Andujar's bat again.