Injuries and adversity open the door for certain players to step into bigger roles at the big-league level.
This week, Miguel Andújar is looking to stick his foot in the playing-time doorway and prop it open, so he can walk through and never look back.
Andújar was recently recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, joining the Yankees in the Bronx when Josh Donaldson landed on the COVID-19 injured list. Donaldson, who also faces a suspension for his controversial comments to Tim Anderson last weekend, joined outfielder Joey Gallo and catcher Kyle Higashioka on the COVID list.
Even as those players begin to return from their illness (nobody tested positive for COVID-19), there's a good chance Andújar can stick around for a little longer. Designated hitter, and part-time outfielder, Giancarlo Stanton is headed for the injured list with ankle inflammation.
Plus, outfielder Aaron Hicks was scratched from the starting lineup on Thursday evening in Tampa Bay. Matt Carpenter—who was signed to a Major League deal earlier on Thursday afternoon—will start at DH and make his Yankee debut.
After going 0-for-5 in his first start back with the team on Tuesday, Andújar played a key role on both sides of the ball during Wednesday night's 2-0 win over the Orioles. Not only did he flash his improvements on defense, making a handful of plays in left field, but he delivered a go-ahead RBI single and was the only Yankee to have a multi-hit game.
"Obviously a big hit there in the inning where we were able to score so really good to see him come in tonight and contribute in a big way," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after Wednesday's win.
Andújar could always hit. He proved that during his rookie year back in 2018, nearly winning a Rookie of the Year Award. He's also been on a tear offensively in Triple-A to start the 2022 season, hitting .289/.337/.443 with four homers, 10 RBI and 13 runs scored across 26 games with the RailRiders.
His defense, however, has been a work in progress over time since he got hurt in 2019, losing his starting job at third base as Gio Urshela stepped in and broke out.
We've seen the former top prospect spend hours during spring training taking fly balls in the outfield, expanding his defensive versatility with reps in left field and at first base while in the Minor Leagues over the last few years.
Now, in Boone's eyes, that hard work is paying off.
"I think the last couple of nights, seeing him move around in left field, his athleticism plays out there," the skipper said. "You can tell he's comfortable. I think the more and more experience he gets, the more comfortable and the more natural he continues to look out there."
This spring, Boone said he thinks Andújar returned from the offseason in a better spot than he's been in the last several years. Still, with a loaded and talented big-league roster, Andújar was forced to start the season in Triple-A, biding his time for his next shot in pinstripes.
That time is now.
With injuries and certain players struggling in the outfield, there's an avenue for Andújar to prove he's worthy of a roster spot over the next several games.
"It’s tough,” he said after Wednesday's win. “Big G is one of the best players here. I don’t want [him to be injured], but I enjoy the opportunity that they’re giving to me right now.”
- Yankees Already Have 'Good News' Regarding Giancarlo Stanton's Injury
- Yankees' JP Sears Earns Win in First MLB Start
- Another Key Yankees Reliever Is Headed to Injured List; What it Means