NEW YORK -- It's just his first trip to the postseason, but there's been nothing about the play of Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus that would make you think it.
"That guy's not a rookie," veteran catcher Bengie Molina said. "He's a true veteran."
Molina is right about one thing: Andrus isn't a rookie. Still, at 22, Andrus is only in his second year, and every game he plays from this point forward will be the biggest in his franchise's history -- at least until next season.
You would never know it by watching him play in October.
While appearing calm and collected, Andrus has been setting the tone at the leadoff spot and making the kind of instinctive baserunning plays you simply don't teach. He's been -- dare you say -- Derek Jeter-ish.
Well, perhaps it's a bit too early for those kinds of comparisons, teammate Michael Young believes.
"I see Elvis Andrus, and that's good enough," Young said after his team's 7-2 win over the Yankees on Saturday in Game 2 of the American Leauge Championship Series, one sparked by Andrus' steal of home in the first inning. "Derek's Derek, and Derek's Derek for a reason. He isn't going to get any Elvis comparisons from me quite yet. But I'm very happy that Elvis Andrus is my teammate. He's got an incredible future and is playing well now. Great kid, great player. But as far as any comparisons to Derek, we'll have to leave that for 10 years down the road when he's got some hardware and about 2,000 hits under his belt."
Fair. But at least Andrus is off to a good start. He went 2-for-4 on Saturday and has hit safely in his first seven postseason games, the fourth-longest stretch among shortstops to start their playoff careers. (The record holder? Surprise: It's Jeter, with nine).
Andrus hit just .184 from Sept. 1 until the end of the season, but he has turned it on when it has mattered most. In his first seven postseason games, he's hitting .355 with five stolen bases and five runs scored.
As Jeter stated, "It seems like he's not afraid of making mistakes, which is always a good quality."
Consecutive playoff games with hits to start career (SS)
"As a leader, you have to set a tone in the games," Andrus said. "It's been a good thing. I've had pretty good at-bats. I feel good and comfortable against almost everybody. That's my job. That's what I did during the season. Nothing has changed."
Statements like those may provide glimpses of the shortstop and leadoff hitter on the other side. But Yankees manager Joe Girardi sees another resemblance with Andrus.
"I remember another young shortstop that used to do the same thing that played in Seattle and Cleveland and this year played third base in Chicago," Girardi said. "Wasn't necessarily a guy that was going to beat you by hitting the ball out of the ballpark, but was going to create issues when he got on base. Omar Vizquel, I believe, is a future Hall of Famer and came up at a very young age and a Venezuelan shortstop. Here's a very young shortstop that seems to play similar."
Andrus says he grew up admiring both Jeter and his countryman, Vizquel. Though several aspects of his play mimic the two icons, his demeanor off the field is vastly different.
Andrus, despite his youth and the veteran clubhouse he's a part of, is the one many Rangers will point to as the player who keeps things loose when the moments get serious. He's constantly singing, dancing and joking around, and he isn't afraid to playfully get on teammates after on-field mistakes, which essentially takes some of the pressure off.
Steals of home in LCS history
"He's a fun guy in the locker room," Rangers outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. "He keeps everybody loose, and I enjoy that."
That's a stark contrast from the all-business mentalities of Vizquel and Jeter. But the Rangers are simply happy with Andrus -- nothing more, nothing less.
"I think Elvis is able to act the way he acts simply because we're a very comfortable team," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We're serious about our baseball, but we also want you to be who you are. When you perform, you can do what you want to do. And he's performing. And so since he's performing, he's relaxed, and that's Elvis. If he wasn't performing, and he was doing things like that, I think the veterans would call him out."