TAMPA — Miguel Andujar estimated he hadn’t played the outfield in 14-15 years before he was the Yankees’ starting left fielder against the Nationals on Wednesday.
“I felt good out there. The last time I played the outfield I was a kid, 11 or 12,’’ said Andujar, who turns 26 on Monday.
After finishing second in the AL Rookie of the Year race in 2018, Andujar’s 2019 season consisted of just a dozen games because of a right shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery May 20.
That opened the door for Gio Urshela to take over third base, and he responded by reaching career highs in batting average (.314), homers (21) and RBIs (74) while playing Gold Glove caliber defense.
How much Andujar will play the outfield is open to discussion. Ditto first base, where he also has been working. He could unseat Urshela at third to reclaim the old job.
Wednesday, Nationals leadoff hitter Victor Robles lofted a fly ball to shallow left field in the first inning that shortstop Gleyber Torres drifted back on as Andujar came in. Eventually, Andujar called off Torres and made a routine catch.
“He took charge like he should,’’ manager Aaron Boone said of Andujar, who doubled in three at-bats. “I said, ‘Nice going’ and he said, ‘I really liked it.’ ”
Boone knows one game and one catch on a routine fly ball doesn’t make a big-league outfielder. However, the small sample size didn’t have a hiccup.
“He seems natural moving around and catching the ball out there,’’ Boone said.
Three main members of the Yankees’ bullpen followed starter Masahiro Tanaka against the Nationals and combined for three shutout innings and gave up one hit. Zack Britton, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle appeared in their first exhibition games and fanned four.
In his third game at short, Torres committed a fielding error (his first of the spring) in the third inning that didn’t lead to a run.
Boone’s father, Bob, who works for the Nationals, dropped into his son’s office before the Yankees took an 8-2 victory in a rain-shortened game.
Considering the alarming rate of injuries the Yankees have suffered, it was almost a surprise Brett Gardner wasn’t injured when hit by a pitch in the wrist area in the third inning Wednesday against the Nationals.
A little past 2 o’clock a hard rain arrived but didn’t force a stoppage of play until after 4 ½ innings, when the game was called. Reggie Jackson alerted the customers to the end of the game by waving his arms on the dugout steps.
Former Yankee All-Star Bernie Williams played the pregame national anthem on guitar.
Yankees host the Rays on Thursday and will start J.A. Happ, who will make his second appearance of the exhibition season. Happ worked two scoreless innings in the first game against the Blue Jays on Saturday.