It once seemed like there was all the time in the world for Miguel Andújar, the marvelous hitter who opened so many pinstriped eyes with his breakout 2018 season. He hit for power and average and only the marvel that is Shohei Ohtani prevented him from making a real run at the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
That’s all ancient history now, lost in the wake of injury, some defensive shortcomings and the emergence of Gio Urshela as the Yankees’ answer at third base. Andújar has struggled since the end of that terrific season — before the end, really, when the Yankees were so worried about his glove that he lost playing time in the playoffs.
Now might be his moment, however. With Yankees injury woes an ongoing issue — Clint Frazier didn’t start Wednesday because of a neck problem, according to Aaron Boone — the 26-year-old Andújar is getting more chances.
After a strong game Tuesday night — it was his first multi-hit game of the season — Andújar was back in the lineup Wednesday night against the Rangers at Globe Life Field in Arlington. He was slotted sixth in the batting order, behind a returning Gleyber Torres, and started in left field.
Aaron Boone was hoping he could give Andújar some playing time. “Look, I’ve said it a ton and, obviously, I think we all recognize what Miggy is capable of. A lot of times, it’s about opportunities.
“Hopefully, we can get him rolling a little bit, especially with having some guys in and out of the lineup, a couple guys down. Maybe there’s some more opportunities there.”
In that remarkable 2018, Andújar batted .297 with a .328 on-base percentage and a .527 slugging. He hit 27 home runs and 47 doubles and drove in 92 runs.
It was easy to dream on him and, when Torres emerged as a glittering star, it seemed the Yanks had two young hitters to wind up and plug into the lineup. Struggles ensued, even for Torres, who has only a .625 OPS this season.
It was worse for Andújar, who tore his labrum in 2019. Since his rookie season, he’s played in 41 games in the Majors and batted .188 with a .210 on-base percentage and a .239 slugging. He has only four extra-base hits and he’s been back-and-forth between the minors and the big leagues as a sub.
Still, there were plenty in baseball who still admired his potential, even if he wasn’t clicking. “You don’t give up on young hitters like that,” an MLB scout from another organization said recently.
Tuesday, he offered a reminder of what he can do. He was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. He knocked in the tying run with an RBI single in the Yankees’ big five-run fourth inning.
“It was really about getting the consistent opportunity out there,” he said after the game, via a translator. “I always felt it was there, through the waiting time. I’m glad things are working.”
Asked if he’s heaped pressure on himself with a small window to impress, he replied, “No, no pressure at all. Just waiting for the opportunity. I know I can do the job. I know I can contribute to my team.
“You never want your teammates to get hurt to get playing time. It’s not really what you want. That being said, I’m ready and available to play whenever the team needs me. It could be the outfield, third, first. Wherever they need me, I’ll be ready.”
He probably should think outfield first. Giancarlo Stanton is recovering from a quad injury, though Boone sounds optimistic about him, and that pushes Aaron Judge to the designated hitter role. Aaron Hicks is hurting with a torn tendon sheath in his wrist. Recent callup Ryan LaMarre started again in right field Wednesday.
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“We have guys, even with a few guys down, who are capable of having a significant impact,” Boone said. “And that opportunity is in front of them right now.”
For Andújar, it’s a chance for him to unleash that hitting potential. He’s only 26. Wouldn’t it be something if, in a season where complaints mount daily about the disappointing Yankees offense, he was one of the players who helped revive it?