WASHINGTON - While most of Tuesday’s attention was focused on Clint Frazier’s call-up for that night’s game at Nationals Park, the move of greater significance for the Yankees involved a few keystrokes and a telephone call to Brandon Drury.
Drury had been on a rehab assignment since April 7 because of migraines and blurred vision — symptoms that have dogged him since his days with the Diamondbacks — but finally had “crossed a threshold” in his treatment, according to Brian Cashman.
So that meant Drury would be promoted back to the Yankees, right?
Despite saying Drury was ready to return, Cashman’s conversation with him involved explaining why he was being optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. And with that decision, the Yankees ushered in the Miguel Andujar Era at third base, roughly three weeks after installing Gleyber Torres at second.
Unlike Torres, who was brought up to stay for good, the Yankees treated Andujar more like a placeholder, refusing to make any long-term commitment. Then Andujar did what teams hope any young prospect does — make it impossible to be sent down. Andujar smacked a double in the second inning before Tuesday’s game was suspended by rain in the sixth, and since taking over for Drury, he’s batting .284 with three homers and a .755 OPS. He’s also played solid enough defense at third (two errors in 60 chances) — the one weakness the Yankees were most worried about.
It certainly didn’t hurt that the Yankees entered Tuesday’s game on a 28-12 roll, the kind of mojo with which you don’t mess. Cashman stressed that Drury was fully capable of contributing to the Yankees, but in the next breath, spoke how it would be beneficial for him to get a few more treatments in.
“He’s a major-league player currently on assignment at Triple-A,” is how Cashman described Drury’s status. “We can plug-and-play him right now.”
But the GM chose not to, basically signaling that Andujar had outlasted Drury in the third-base competition after losing to him in Tampa during spring training. That was always the danger for a player like Drury, whom Cashman traded for in February to have a more experienced hand at third base rather than rolling the dice out of the gate with Andujar.
Eventually, the job figured to be Andujar’s. Just not before Memorial Day. But Drury’s mysterious ailment knocked him to the DL after only eight games and Cashman apparently is in no rush to test him in the majors again. Now Drury is going to need help getting back to the Yankees — either by a slumping Andujar or an injury — as the GM is gaining more and more confidence in his young stars.
“We didn’t acquire Brandon Drury to be at Scranton,” Cashman said. “We acquired him to help the major-league club. But just like Brandon beat out Miguel in spring training, Miguel took advantage of this opportunity and ran with it.”
That’s as close as Cashman would come to labeling Andujar as the Yankees’ now-and-future third baseman. General managers don’t like to speak in such absolutes because something might happen an hour from now that could change everything. For that reason, there’s no sense in setting yourself up to have to walk back statements. But the immediate plan is to go with Andujar as another domino has fallen in the Yankees’ ongoing transitional shift to their top homegrown talent.
The Yankees also wanted to take their time with Torres, which is why Cashman signed Neil Walker to a one-year, $4-million contract in late March and started the season with both him and Tyler Wade designed to split time at second base. But Wade failed to stick, and Walker batted .165 with a .402 OPS through the first 20 games, creating a void at second that it just made too much sense for Torres to fill. And now Torres, who is hitting .324 with three homers and an .865 OPS, is going to be there for a long while.
Cashman was looking forward to this day, the time when both Torres and Andujar would anchor the Yankees’ infield beyond the final out of the Grapefruit League. As the clock ticked down on Drury’s rehab, a decision eventually had to be made, and Andujar left Cashman no choice. Good thing it was the easy one.