TAMPA, Fla. — Miguel Andujar knew exactly what his weaknesses were last season and didn’t waste time attacking them.
Andujar, whose inconsistencies on defense led to Aaron Boone benching him in Game 4 of the Division Series loss to the Red sox, stopped by the minor-league complex here in November to work with infield coach Carlos Mendoza and was among the early arrivals for spring training.
“The plan on defense since the offseason [started] has been to improve my ready position, improve my first step, and improve my direction when making a throw,” Andujar said through his translator Wednesday. “So a combination of different things that should allow me to be better.”
The Yankees sure hope so because the last thing they want to do is to remove Andujar’s bat, as they did late in games last season.
“I don’t want to do that,” Boone said.
Andjuar, who turns 24 on March 2, hit .297 with 27 homers and 92 RBIs in 149 games after starting the season in the minors, leading all MLB rookies in hits (170), doubles (47), RBIs, extra-base hits (76) and multi-hit games (53). He broke the Yankees’ single-season rookie record for doubles, eclipsing Joe DiMaggio's 44 in 1936. But the questions on defense — he committed 15 errors — led to an offseason of rumors about the Yankees possibly dealing him and signing Manny Machado (whom the Yankees never made a play for).
Andujar smiled when asked about Machado, who according to reports agreed Tuesday to a 10-year, $300 million deal with the Padres.
“First of all, I have to congratulate Manny,” he said. “300 million dollars. Wow. Congratulations to Manny for sure.”
Andujar added: “I always stay positive. Focus on what my responsibilities are and just look for the opportunity to keep doing my thing and keep working hard.”
Word on Bird
The most interesting competition of the spring will be at first where Luke Voit, in the words of GM Brian Cashman, has “a leg up” on Greg Bird, who lost the job in late August. Boone has been impressed with Bird, a Tampa resident in the offseason who was a consistent presence all winter at the minor-league complex.
“Definitely a noticeable difference,” Boone said. “The first time I saw him over [at the complex], I definitely feel like . . . he’s added some weight in a good way. I think clearly he feels like he’s through some of the physical things that were holding him back last year.”