How profound a depth test can the Yankees pass? They sure as heck don’t want to find out …
… Oh, sorry. Had a little file shuffle there. The above paragraph was how I concluded my column from Yankee Stadium on April 1, the day the Yankees placed both Miguel Andujar (torn labrum, right shoulder) and Giancarlo Stanton (strained left biceps) on the injured list, their eighth and ninth assignments to the IL with the season less than a week old.
The depth test grew considerably more challenging, it turned out, and the Yankees nonetheless aced it. So much so that when the Yankees returned the vastly flailing Andujar to the IL on Monday, the prevailing reaction turned out to be not despair over losing him again, but rather relief for not having to witness his travails, and contemplation that season-ending surgery — still on the table, as Aaron Boone acknowledged — might be the best long-term solution.
What a difference six weeks make?
“[We] feel like that, even though he’s passed everything and strength test has been good and rehabbed him properly, do feel like the injury is certainly a contributing factor to some of the struggles,” Boone said of Andujar at Yankee Stadium, before the Yankees were scheduled to open a series with the Orioles. “I think we’ll kind of reassess all that and then try and get a plan in place as to trying to get him back.”
Andujar, since returning from his initial IL stay after trying conservative treatment on the shoulder, put together a dreadful .128/.143/.128 slash line through 12 games, managing just six hits, all singles, in 47 at-bats. “At the plate, things are not going exactly the way I want,” he told The Post on Monday, through an interpreter, before Boone revealed the team’s intention to again deactivate the third baseman-designated hitter. Asked how his shoulder was feeling, he replied, “So far, good.”
Given Andujar’s value to the Yankees last year, as he made consistent, hard contact and finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting, the April 1 disclosure of his potentially serious ailment rocked the Yankees.
That, however, occurred at a time when Gio Urshela’s brand radiated more Quadruple-A than All-Star.
Only the most wide-eyed optimists believe Urshela, whose rise at third base relegated Andujar to more starts at designated hitter than at the hot corner, can maintain the .341/.396/.505 slash line he brought to work on Monday. However, his career-high average exit velocity of 90.5 mph gives him an expected slash line of .328/.388/.482 (thanks, Baseball Savant), which the Yankees would gladly take. While his defense grades better on the eye test than it does with established public metrics, either way, it’s superior to that of Andujar.
And with Andujar simply not hitting after trying, the Yankees are better off utilizing Clint Frazier at DH, especially with center fielder Aaron Hicks (back) finally off the IL and ready to start his 2019 season.
If Andujar wouldn’t confess to pain in his shoulder, he did admit his change in role, prompted by Urshela’s rise, proved difficult.
“It’s definitely tough,” Andujar said. “Throughout my career, I’ve always played third base. I used to DH once a week, maybe here or there. Now full time doing that, you’ve got to make an adjustment. It’s just different for me. But it’s soon to come.”
Or not. The Yankees’ IL expanded to 14 with the placement of Andujar and Jonathan Loaisiga (right shoulder) there, and this franchise carries more of a Darwinian feel than ever.
Next man up has a chance to stay as first man. Survival of the fittest.
Moving forward, if Andujar can right himself by means surgical or non-, the Yankees gladly will cope with their glut of talent. At this point, they’ll just be grateful what not long ago seemed like a jolt now comes across as another day at the ballpark.
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