TAMPA — The evolution of Miguel Andujar continued Monday as the 24-year-old worked again in left field, as he looks to prove he’s capable of playing a more versatile role for the Yankees with Gio Urshela already at third base.
Carlos Mendoza, recently promoted to Aaron Boone’s bench coach, has been working with Andujar throughout the offseason and remains optimistic the 24-year-old can play left field — as well as first base — in addition to third.
But Mendoza also said after Andujar worked out at the Yankees’ minor league complex that third base remains “the priority” for the Yankees and Andujar.
“He’s getting work everywhere,” Mendoza said. “From third base to first base to the outfield. Third base is the priority, and every other day he’s alternating positions.”
Most importantly, Andujar’s shoulder is healthy after he was sidelined for much of last season with a torn labrum that required surgery.
“He’s full-go, throwing-wise,’’ Mendoza said. “He’s throwing from the outfield and third base with no issues so far.”
Andujar still has minor league options remaining, meaning the Yankees can send him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre without sending him through waivers — something they can’t do with Urshela.
But if Andujar adapts well enough to the other positions, he could make himself valuable, especially with the additional roster spot teams have this season, going from 25 to 26.
And there still figures to be a battle for third base, with Urshela having struggled down the stretch offensively after emerging as one of the Yankees’ most pleasant surprises in 2019 following Andujar’s injury.
General manager Brian Cashman said during the offseason, though, that third base was Urshela’s “position to lose.”
Andujar had done some work at first base prior to this offseason, but he’s already doing more advanced drills there than in the past, according to Mendoza.
“He had done basic stuff around the base,” Mendoza said of Andujar’s previous efforts there. “Mostly just footwork. Now, there’s more stretching and receiving throws.”
And Mendoza has seen progress already.
“He looks a lot better than the first few weeks he was there,’’ Mendoza said. “It’s a lot for him right now. He’s working his tail off, not only at all three positions, but taking care of his arm. That’s part of the rehab. Even though he’s fully recovered, it needs maintenance, so he does shoulder exercises.”
Andujar’s 2019 was virtually wiped out after he injured his right shoulder diving into third base in just the third game of the season. He sat out a month before returning in May, but went just 3-for-34 with no extra-base hits in nine games before undergoing surgery that ended his season.
Still, he’s just a year removed from the 27-homer performance that made Andujar an integral part of the 2018 lineup.
With Gleyber Torres shifting full-time to shortstop in the wake of Didi Gregorius’ free-agent departure to Philadelphia, the Yankees will need a backup shortstop — which could be Tyler Wade, leaving Andujar as a possibility at first and third.
With pitchers and catchers due to report Feb. 12, more players are expected to arrive in Tampa in the coming days. In addition to Andujar, Gary Sanchez and Luke Voit took batting practice Monday, and Mendoza added Torres has been in Tampa regularly since early January.