Miguel Andujar working harder than ever, and willing to do whatever it takes to return to MLB


TAMPA -- Miguel Andujar finally made his Major League debut last season, and he made an immediate impact, going 3-for-4 with a walk and four RBI in the Yankees' 12-3 win over the White Sox in Chicago on June 28.
"This has been my dream since I was a kid, so when the moment came, I was so happy, and my family was so happy," Andujar said through team translator Marlon Abreu. "And we won the game, so that just made it even better."
Unfortunately for Andujar, it was a short-lived MLB stint, as he was sent back to Triple-A the next day. He returned as a late-September call-up, though, and crossed another first off his bucket list: He got his first hit in actual pinstripes on Oct. 1 in the Yankees' final game of the season.
"That whole experience just gave me motivation to work even harder," he said. "I just focused on working super hard and doing what I needed to do, because I wanted to be able to contribute to the Yankees again at some point. I worked hard, and it happened."
He came into 2018 as a Top 5 prospect in the organization and a Top 100 prospect in baseball, and when the Yankees traded Chase Headley to San Diego, he found himself atop the depth chart at third base. Once again, though, that changed this spring, as the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury, and Andujar was optioned to Triple-A, where he will begin the season getting everyday reps at the hot corner.
A disappointment for sure, especially after Andujar hit four homers in the early part of Grapefruit League action -- and, later, James P. Dawson Award winner for outstanding rookie in camp -- but a move that's only going to make him work harder to make it back to The Show.
"I've been with this organization for almost seven years, and ever since I was a kid, I've been working really, really hard to be the best player I can be," Andujar said. "That's the only thing I can control; I want the opportunity, but that's something I can't control, so I just need to keep working and be ready for whatever may come in the future."
Andujar has always had the bat, but shaky defense has been the knock on him his entire Minor League career. That's something he especially worked hard on late last year and this winter, and even Yankees manager Aaron Boone was impressed with what he saw this spring.
"Yeah, I worked very hard, and the focus was to just have a really good routine, and maintain it and keep it consistent," Andujar said. "When you work hard, you improve, that's the bottom line. So, you have to focus on what you need to do to keep improving and just keep doing it."
The Yankees also decided, even before Greg Bird's foot because an issue once again, to start working Andujar at first base this year, with Boone saying late last week that Andujar will be getting "about 80/20" work in Triple-A between his given position and the new one -- giving him versatility the manager desires, and versatility that can only help his case for a roster spot.
There is one thing Andujar won't be doing down in Scranton, though: feeling the pressure of being a top prospect trying to crack through the ceiling into the Majors once again.
"I don't feel pressure, because this is the game that I love and enjoy playing," he said. "This is what I know, so to me, I'm having fun doing my job, and working hard to get better at it."
And when he does get back, hopefully for good, he noted that the reward will only be made sweeter by the fact that he'll be one of many homegrown players excelling in the pinstripes.
"I was super happy to get the opportunity (last year), especially with the team that first signed me," Andujar said, "but I can't wait to be a part of it for good."