Miguel Andujar is finally free.
The Yankee who went from being an American League Rookie of the Year finalist (lost to Shohei Ohtani) in 2018 back to the minors in the past three seasons was slated for an assignment Thursday to make room on the 40-man roster for Zack Britton before the series opener against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.
“It’s tough. He is. He may end up erasing (waivers) and I don’t know if anyone’s ever claimed him or something. But he’s a great lad, working very hard. He worked very hard to become a quality left fielder,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after the Yankees’ 5-4, 10-inning win over the Red Sox at Stadium. “He’s still very talented. So you never know when it can really break out and still click for a guy who has shown he can do it at this level too.
Several scouts who watched Andujar in Triple-A this season said they would be shocked if he wasn’t claimed soon.
Andujar, who hit 27 homers and 47 doubles in 2018, played in 149 games that season. He entered 2019 as the Yankees’ starting third baseman, despite not even being average defensively. He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury on the opening weekend of the season and was replaced by Gio Urshela. He never returned as a regular player. Over the next three years, Andujar played in 93 games with eight home runs and 25 RBIs.
Andujar asked for a trade a few times and this year he made it clear he needed to find a new path to the big leagues.
“I like to play baseball,” Andujar said through Yankees interpreter Marlon Abreu in July. “I’ve been playing this game for a long time now. I want to play at this level. The exact details of the conversation that I want to keep confidential.
Given his success early in his career, there will be teams that give Andujar a chance.
A scout who watched Andujar in Triple-A this year said Andujar impressed him with his “solid” bats and teams “always saw the batting value” in him.
A day after expressing his frustration with the Yankees’ indecision, Zack Britton got his wish and was activated. The left-handed reliever last pitched in a major league game a season ago before being shut down for Tommy John surgery last October. Now he has 14 games left to prove he can help them in the playoffs.
“That’s the only reason I’m pitching right now,” Britton said. “Otherwise, I would have just closed it. I feel like if I get enough innings I can be myself and I can help in the playoffs. Like I said, time will tell if that will be the case, but that’s my goal.
Britton is in the final year of his contract with the Yankees. He made just 22 appearances last season before being called off. Britton has 154 career saves and had a 1.89 ERA in 2020, his last full season.
While the Yankees may not have relied on Britton, he would have been much-needed veteran help for a bullpen that has already been stretched by injuries to Chad Green and Michael King. The bullpen has struggled over the past month, showing their issues when they gave up seven runs Tuesday night against the Pirates.
To put Britton on the 28-man roster, the Yankees placed Wandy Peralta on the 15-day injured list with what the team said was a tightness in the thoracic spine. This involves the middle of the spine from the neck to the ribs.
“He’s been shot the last few days,” Boone said. “Still there today and there’s not much improvement there. We don’t think it’s serious. Something that’s come up a few times over the last four to six weeks. This time it been a few days. So it just feels like it’s something that we want to eliminate right now. And hopefully, hopefully a few more days we’ll start to wrap it up again and then it’ll be available via the Texas series.
Andrew Benintendi was back with the club on Thursday after missing Wednesday due to illness. The left fielder said the hand was improving and he was able to physically train, but he was not yet able to do anything with the hand he had surgery on. He said the best case scenario for him would be to be able to come back during the playoffs.
“That was always the plan,” Benintendi said.
The left fielder underwent surgery to repair the hamate bone hook earlier this month.
DJ LeMahieu hit in a regular batting practice squad for the first time Thursday. He also did a few runs on the bases afterwards. The infielder is on the IL with an inflamed right toe.