TAMPA — The Yankees haven't forgotten about Miguel Andújar, but his role this season and beyond still remains unclear.
Andújar, who turned 26 on Tuesday, is doing his best to stay ready this spring, balancing his workload on defense so he can let his bat do the talking.
"For me, it's to play baseball," Andújar said via the club's interpreter on Tuesday. "When I get an opportunity to get in the game, I gotta be ready to play and that's the way I see it."
Not too long ago, Andújar was the runner-up in the race for the American League Rookie of the Year. Over 149 games in 2018, the third baseman hit .297 (170-for-573) with 27 home runs and 47 doubles. It looked like New York had found their long-term solution at the hot corner, an extra-base hit machine with the potential to improve on defense and solidify his starting gig going forward.
Then, Andújar missed much of the 2019 season due to injury, opening the door for Gio Urshela to blossom at the position in his place. Last year, Andújar attempted to add the outfield to his defensive repertoire in an effort to find some playing time, but wound up at the alternate site for much longer than his time with the big-league club.
As he said on Tuesday, Andújar's plan of attack entering 2021 is to stay ready. That means balancing his work to improve his versatility at third base and the corner spots in the outfield, building off the progress he was able to make while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic this offseason.
"I would say about the same. Same amount of work in the outfield and infield," Andújar explained. "Like I said before, for me it is to be ready and play ball. Give it the best I have every time I'm in the game."
That said, it's only getting tougher for Andújar to find a spot with this team. Urshela is the starting third baseman when healthy. With the presence of utility man Tyler Wade and outfielder Brett Gardner, the odds of him securing a spot appear slim. Further, New York brought in multiple non-roster invitees (Jay Bruce and Derek Dietrich) that have far more experience and would add a much-needed left-handed bat to the bench.
"It's great for the Yankees to add players with experience like that, but like I said, I don't control any of that stuff," Andújar said. "For me, it's playing baseball, play at the level that I'm used to and give it the best I have."
You can't fault him for having that positive outlook on his situation. Andújar has the next month of spring exhibition games to prove his worth, competing for an Opening Day roster spot.
At the very least, Andújar can rest comfortably knowing that his coaches haven't forgotten about him and what he can provide to this team when he's at his best.
"We know what type of player Miggy could be," Yankees' bench coach Carlos Mendoza assured last week. "As a coach, as a coaching staff, we just got to stay positive with him, making sure that he's getting his work in at every position and have him ready when his name's called ... The one thing that he can control is the way he goes out and plays and performs. Let the people that make the decision, make those decisions, but our job is to prepare him and stay positive with him."
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