With each tentative step Brandon Drury takes toward returning from migraines and blurry vision, Miguel Andujar takes another step back to Triple-A.
Or does he?
The Yankees soon could have a pleasant problem on their hands when Drury — who is said to be making progress — is ready to reclaim his third-base job. With each passing game, with each extra-base hit, Andujar is showing he wants to stay.
And that he deserves to.
Andujar, the 23-year-old with lightning in his bat, went 2-for-4 with a three-run double on Saturday in the Yankees’ 9-1 win over the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.
His sixth-inning laser into the left-centerfield gap off Marcus Stroman was the knockout punch the Yankees craved on their way to a much-needed laugher. Andujar’s double was the big blow in a seven-run inning, ending Stroman’s afternoon and giving the Yankees a six-run lead. Cue the chuckles.
Andujar, the Yankees’ minor league player of the year in 2017, looked overmatched when he initially was called up on April 1 to replace injured outfielder Billy McKinney on the roster. Andujar was hitless in his first 12 at-bats en route to a 3-for-28 start.
In the last five games, however, Andujar has gone 9-for-20 (.450). Even more impressive than the batting average is that eight of the hits have been for extra bases (five doubles, one triple and the first two home runs of his big-league career).
Overall, Andujar is batting .250 with nine RBIs in 12 games. Drury was batting .217 with a homer and four RBIs.
“He’s really talented, obviously,” manager Aaron Boone said of Andujar. “As he can get comfortable in the box, I think he’s done a better job controlling the strike zone. Early on, his first several games, a little bit anxious, maybe a little bit overaggressive. He’s an aggressive hitter kind of because he can handle so many pitches in the strike zone, but I think he’s settling in a little bit and getting a little more comfortable, and hopefully he can continue to contribute with his bat.”
Andujar’s defense at third base is, to put it kindly, a work in progress. He has been charged with two errors, but that doesn’t tell the whole story because you can’t make an error on a ball you don’t go after. Twice on Saturday, Andujar failed to move more than a few inches to his left on balls that he should have at least made an effort to stop.
At the plate, Andujar is all aggressiveness, with a ferocious, looping swing. He is a darling of the exit-velocity crowd, which is another way of saying that when he hits the ball, he hits it hard. It’s a quality he shares with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez.
“It’s incredible to watch just the transformation that he’s had,” said Judge, who clubbed a monster two-run homer to left in the third for the game’s first runs. “I got a chance to play with him my first year in Charleston in 2014. Even back then, when I saw his swing, the big thing about him is it’s just so quick. He has a little toe-tap and a little wiggle, but the bat just stays in the zone. He was a teenager. He’s such a consistent hitter because his barrel stays in the zone. He’s still learning. He’s still developing. It’s just going to be fun to watch for years to come. It’s just the beginning for him. The sky’s the limit.”
Remember, Gleyber Torres is hitting .347 for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and the Yankees just happen to have an opening at second base. Mini-column: Call him up already. (Indications on Saturday evening were that the Yankees have done just that, although it wasn’t official.)
If Andujar and the 21-year-old Torres pan out, the Yankees are going to have some kind of lineup, as Judge would say, for years to come.
Drury might play in some minor-league rehab games next week. With Greg Bird weeks away from returning from his latest injury, Andujar could see some time at first base after Drury comes back. Or Boone could shuffle things around to get Andujar at-bats at the corner spots and DH.
“I don’t worry about any of that stuff,” Andujar said through a translator. “For me, it’s just staying ready.”