If the Yankees were furtively miffed by Miguel Andujar’s shoddy defense at third base in Boston last weekend, they knew exactly how he could atone for his mistakes in a timely fashion.
Step 1: Swing the bat. Step 2: Get on base. Step 3: Repeat Steps 1 and 2.
At the behest of his superiors, Andujar did just that and more on Tuesday night in Chicago, as his game-tying home run in the seventh inning and go-ahead single in extras helped the Yankees rally to a 4-3 win over the White Sox in 13 innings at Guaranteed Rate Field.
And in a fitting manner, the 23-year-old rookie sought redemption as the Yankees’ designated hitter for the second consecutive game. Punishment or not, Andujar came through by doing what he does best — putting the barrel on the ball.
It was this innate ability that forced the Yankees to add Andujar’s “major league ready” bat to the Opening Day roster back in March, even though his glove work and footwork at the hot corner still remains a work-in-progress.
Was it the right decision? Well, based on his numbers and the fact that New York’s original Plan A at third base — Brandon Drury — is no longer with the club, the answer should be an overwhelming yes.
In 101 games, Andujar leads New York with a .292 batting average and 47 extra-base hits (30 doubles, 15 homers, two triples). And since the All-Star break, his .359 average ranks fourth-best in the American League among hitters with a minimum of 50 plate appearances.
These are statistics of a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate.
Suffice to say Andujar has exceeded the Yankees’ expectations tenfold.
“He’s been such a good player for us,” manager Aaron Boone told the YES Network following Tuesday’s game. “He’s so good in the box, obviously with the home run to get us tied earlier. And then off a lefty [Luis Avilan] just changing speeds on him, able to get enough of it [for the game-winner]… The ability to make adjustments that he’s shown throughout the year has been impressive. Just another good night for him.”
For these reasons stated by Boone, Andujar can’t be given more than a half-day off. Yes, he recently made two critical defensive mistakes on Sunday at Fenway Park, and they played a huge role in the Yankees’ humiliating four-game sweep against the Red Sox. But Andujar’s offensive production warrants at-bats on a daily basis, and it’s clear that Boone and general manager Brian Cashman are more than willing to remain patient with his defensive development.
If this wasn’t true, then what would’ve stopped Cashman from dealing Andujar at the non-waiver trade deadline? What would’ve stopped Cashman from trading for a coveted star like Manny Machado, who can hit and field at an exceptional level?
The Yankees believe in Andujar. They see his potential, his high-ceiling. They’re willing to take the good with the bad, even though the team has a very small margin for error from this point forward.
“I’m going to play whatever position the manager puts me in,” Andujar recently told NJ.com. “At the end of the day, you’re trying to help the team and do the best you can. It doesn’t matter where you’re playing.”
So, whether or not there was intent behind the Yankees placing Andujar in the DH slot on Monday and Tuesday, his presence and impact in the batter’s box makes most of the growing pains easy to forgive and forget.