Rangers SS Andrus takes aging distinctions into 12th season

Sports

Texas Rangers’ Rougned Odor, left, and Elvis Andrus talk while waiting to bat during spring training baseball practice Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, in Surprise, Ariz. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Elvis Andrus has a few aging distinctions going into his 12th major league season.

The only player left in the Texas Rangers clubhouse to wear that uniform in a World Series, the 31-year-old shortstop is the club’s longest-tenured player by five years and expected to be the oldest regular starting shortstop in the majors.

“I still believe I’m a rookie,” Andrus said Monday, when the Rangers had their first full-squad workout. “I never want to feel comfortable. I always want to feel that somebody is going to take my job, and that’s the mentality and that’s the reality of the game.”

Andrus hit .275 last season — matching his career average through 1,623 regular-season games. He was hitting .361 through the season’s first month and was at .309 by the end of June, then batted .240 over the final 74 games of the season while Texas skidded to its third straight losing season since AL West titles in 2015 and 2016.

Second-year manager Chris Woodward said the Rangers “were pretty honest” with Andrus after his struggles in the second half.

“I know there’s more to him on an everyday basis, and that was the challenge, and he worked his butt off this offseason,” Woodward said. “It was intense. … He wants to prove to the world, it’s kind of like a running back after 30, it’s like a shortstop after 30. There’s not too many of them. So he feels like he’s got a lot to prove in that way, and he put in the work this offseason to be ready this year.”

Miami shortstop Miguel Rojas turns 31 next week, seven months before Andrus marks his 32nd birthday. Only four other likely starting shortstops will be 30 on opening day.

Andrus was 20 when he made his big league debut in the 2009 season opener for the Rangers, who then went to their only two World Series in 2010 and 2011. That means Andrus will be playing in his third different decade this season.

“Man, I think that time is flying,” Andrus said. “Still a lot in the tank, and bring in what I promised when I signed my long deal here, which is a World Series.. … I’m not getting any younger. So, you know, there’s a lot of stuff that I still believe I can do in this game. And you know, when you put those goals, those challenges, that’s what makes everything a lot more fun.”

The two-time All-Star shortstop is going into the sixth season of the $120 million, eight-year contract. The deal includes options that could become guaranteed based on performance and extend the agreement through 2023.

“Yeah, the old man now. It’s crazy,” All-Star slugger Joey Gallo said. “The reason I love, I respect Elvis a lot, is just he’s always himself. He always brings that certain charisma, and that energy and positivity to the field every day.”

While describing Andrus as a talented and heady player, Woodward also talked about how everyone loves the “amazing personality” of the shortstop.

Shin-Soo Choo, the leadoff-hitting 37-year-old designated hitter and outfielder, is going into his seventh season since the free agent deal he signed with the Rangers before the 2014 season. Catcher Robinson Chirinos actually started with Texas in 2013 but also is going into his seventh season with the team after spending last year with the Houston Astros.

Boston first baseman Mitch Moreland and Minnesota designated hitter Nelson Cruz are the only other position players from either of the two AL pennant-winning teams in Texas still playing in the majors.

“Everybody’s gone. They all bailed on me. A bunch of them just retired, too,” Andrus said. “That’s the way it goes, and I’m really blessed. I’m still here, pushing, pushing harder every single day. … I mean I’ve been blessed to play more than 10 years in the league. And, like I said it’s a lot more years ahead.”

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