TAMPA — When the Yankees signed Troy Tulowitzki in early January, it was a sign they weren’t going to drop a boatload of money on Manny Machado to play short.
The Yankees were hoping Tulowitzki would remain healthy and productive long enough to help until Didi Gregorius returns from Tommy John surgery.
There was a chance Machado could play third, but the Yankees professed their love for Miguel Andujar, who finished second in the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year race.
Eventually, Machado signed a 10-year deal for $300 million to play for the Padres and Andujar was no longer in danger of being moved to first base, traded or sent to the minors this year.
Those who believe Andujar isn’t a quality third baseman because of the 15 errors he made last year when he batted .297 with 27 homers and 92 RBIs, immediately started to fantasize that Nolan Arenado wouldn’t sign a long-term deal with the Rockies and would join the Yankees as a free agent for the 2020 season or possibly in a midseason trade.
Well, that won’t be happening after the stud third baseman signed an eight-year deal for $260 million on Tuesday to remain in Denver.
Andujar addressed the Machado signing and said he was only focused on helping the Yankees; he wasn’t in the clubhouse after Tuesday’s news broke.
Chances are good that, when asked about Arenado’s megadeal, Andujar will shrug and have little to say.
However, with Machado in Southern California and Arenado in the Rocky Mountains for a long time, there are two ways to look at how it impacts Andujar, who turns 25 on Saturday.
Does it make him relax in the field and at the plate knowing those superstars aren’t dropping into The Bronx? Or does it put pressure on him to match or better what he did at the plate last year and improve defensively?
In an effort to reduce the error total, Andujar has been working daily with infield coach Carlos Mendoza and guest instructor Willie Randolph.
“You can see the difference from last year,’’ said Randolph, while crediting Mendoza for his work with Andujar. “He is starting to dance. He wasn’t dancing last year.’’
Dancing is Randolph’s term for pre-pitch preparation.
“Just trust your feet and hands, don’t get stagnant,’’ Randolph said. “Especially at third base. Last year he was stagnant. Not all infielders are dancers. So much of what you do is in your feet. You see kids with strong arms who don’t trust their feet.’’
Manager Aaron Boone went to Tampa twice and to the Dominican Republic to see how Andujar’s offseason workouts were going. The message to Andujar centered on pre-pitch preparation because some of Andujar’s errors were the result of not having his feet in the proper position to make good throws. That resulted in sidearm throws that went wide of first base.
Randolph said he and Mendoza, who will be with Andujar all season, talk constantly and are on the same page.
“It’s not like [Andujar] is my project, but I watch everything,’’ Randolph said.
And he likes what he has seen so far.
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