Miguel Andujar didn’t flinch.
Though he came up through the Yankees’ system exclusively as a third baseman and played 136 games there during his stellar rookie season of 2018, he had no hesitation when the club came to him this past offseason with a new plan: In spring training, he not only would continue to work at third base but also would get reps at first base and in the outfield, mostly leftfield.
Andujar had produced a .297/.328/.527 slash line, 27 homers and 92 RBIs in 2018. He also had 47 doubles, three more than the club record for rookies set by Joe DiMaggio in 1936, and finished second behind Shohei Ohtani in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. But a fluke shoulder injury cost him virtually all of the 2019 season — and with it his starting job at third, as the defensively superior Gio Urshela immediately grabbed hold of it and never let go.
But the Yankees still wanted to find a regular spot somewhere in the starting lineup for Andujar because of his bat, and he immediately was all-in with the proposal to play multiple positions.
"I wasn't at all surprised because, knowing Miggy since he was like 16, 17 years old, I know his makeup and what kind of kid he is,” said bench coach Carlos Mendoza, who also coaches the club’s infielders.
Mendoza, speaking recently from his home in Tampa, Florida, has worked in a variety of roles with the Yankees since joining them in 2009, including as the organization’s infield coordinator from 2013-17.
“He's the type of guy that’s going to do anything that you ask him to do,” Mendoza said of Andujar, who saw game action in leftfield and at third and first in spring training before baseball shut down March 13 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andujar, 25 — who has impressed the Yankees with his work ethic since signing for $700,000 as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 — all but shrugged any time he was asked about having to adapt to the new positions.
“I love having an opportunity to play and help the team,” he said through his interpreter one morning in the Steinbrenner Field clubhouse. “At the end of the day, that’s what you want to do, you want to be able to help the team in any way possible. I’m honored to have the opportunity to be here, so any opportunity is going to be welcome.”
Andujar’s offseason reflected that attitude. He didn’t wait until spring training to begin his work. Instead, it started in November when he made the first of a handful of trips to the Yankees’ minor-league complex in Tampa to get extra time in with Mendoza.
“It showed,” one rival talent evaluator said via text of Andujar’s reputation as a hard worker.
The scout, who also observed Andujar at points in the minors, said he was particularly impressed with his performance in the outfield.
“The first game, I thought, ‘No chance [this works],’ " the scout said. “Two games later it was, ‘There’s some real potential there.’ He’s an athlete and he apparently works his [butt] off. That’s a [good] start.”
Mendoza’s long experience with Andujar — who showed a strong arm but was somewhat erratic at third in 2018, committing 15 errors — has always given him the same vibe.
“He wants to be in the big leagues, he wants to be a part of our team and he knows that there's a really good group here and he wants to be a part of it, and whatever it takes, he's willing to do it,” Mendoza said. “I knew it [learning new positions] wasn’t going to be a big deal with Miggy.”