Things just haven’t gone Miguel Andujar’s way this year. He was set to take on a bigger role in the Yankee offense after finishing second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting, and he devoted the offseason to working on his highly criticized defense in preparation for a full season at the hot corner. Unfortunately, a labrum tear in his shoulder just three games into the season quickly sapped his chances at a repeat performance.
Initially, it was feared that Andujar might miss the entire season if surgery was necessary. Fortunately, Andujar avoided that worst case scenario. He rehabbed rapidly, getting back into game shape and entering minor league games by late April. Andujar returned to the Yankee lineup on May 4th, picking up a hit and a walk in four at-bats, but has only recorded two hits since then in 23 at-bats.
The sub-par defense that plagued his rookie campaign didn’t improve while he was recovering either, as Andujar has made three errors in just four games on the field since his return. He simply hasn’t shone on either side of the ball so far, and in the meantime, surprise hero Gio Urshela has stolen the show, playing regularly since Andujar went down and producing shocking results. Yet while Urshela’s strong play certainly won’t prove to be a boon for Andujar’s playing time, the Yankees can view it as an opportunity to let Andujar work his way back.
At the onset of the Yankees’ brutal host of injuries, there was plenty concern that the offense would grind to a halt, but Urshela and several other standouts have kept the runs coming. Because of this, the Yankees can afford to slowly roll out Andujar on a more consistent basis as he gets innings under him, and not hit the panic button if he doesn’t immediately contribute. Andujar was a major cog in the lineup that cranked out a record amount of home runs last year, and the Yankees definitely still value his production enough to ride through a rough patch.
It’s also beneficial that Andujar doesn’t immediately have to tackle the issue of his defense while also getting his bat back up to speed. A bit of time spent at DH, with the occasional start at third sprinkled in, will allow Andujar to get his feet settled and to readjust to the speed of the majors. Should Andujar start producing at a high level again, the team won’t have to worry about overloading him by bringing him back into the fold in the infield.
The Yankees have done more than tread water through the beginning of this season. They aren’t up and above the rest of their competition, but they’ve done a remarkable job staying in the hunt with so many pieces out. As they begin to work guys like Andujar back in, keeping the focus on that long-term goal will be critical. It may not look pretty at the moment, but it hurts them far less to have Andujar working through a slump now than benching him until the job is open again.