Veteran recalls shock of being dealt, apprenticeship under Young, Beltre
By Sam Butler
The big news around the Rangers on July 31 was, understandably, the trade of Yu Darvish to the Dodgers.
There were a few different emotions around the clubhouse that day. But amidst all the chaos, it also marked an occasion that shaped how the Rangers have progressed as a franchise in the past decade. Ten years ago that day, they shipped off Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay to the postseason-chasing Braves for a package of prospects.
Andrus was one of five players Atlanta dealt to Texas, and he's blossomed into one of the Rangers' most consistent players in the time since. Andrus, then just a 18-year-old two years removed from signing with the Braves out of his home country of Venezuela, remembers how "crazy" the day was.
Andrus was playing with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Atlanta's Class A Advanced affiliate, and he was understandably blindsided by the trade. To someone trying to ascend the ranks of the Minor Leagues and reach the Majors, it can feel like that team gave up on you. But thanks to the help of his brother, Andrus was able to see the bright side of being moved.
"It was a little shocking, but at the same time, my brother gave me the bright side of the trade: the opportunity to be in the big leagues a lot sooner than if I had stayed in the Braves' organization," Andrus said. "When I saw it that way, I thought, 'Oh, that's kind of true.' So as soon as I got here, I just kept working hard and tried to make everything work a lot sooner for me to get in the big leagues."
Andrus arrived at Class A Advanced Bakersfield, where the transition to a new team was made easier because the manager there, Carlos Subero -- now the first-base and infield coach for the Brewers -- hailed from Venezuela as well.
"He called me right away," Andrus said. "Listening to him, I was like, 'OK, he's at least going to be a guy that I know, and it kind of makes everything easier.'"
Andrus shot through the ranks of the Minors. He spent the remainder of the 2007 season with Bakersfield, where he hit .300 and stole 15 bases. Andrus was promoted to Double-A Frisco in 2008, hitting .295 with 64 RBIs and 54 stolen bases.
Michael Young was the Rangers' incumbent shortstop entering 2009, earning American League All-Stars honors in each of the previous five seasons. But Texas moved the veteran to third and named Andrus, still just 20 years old, the Opening Day starter at short. Andrus did whatever he could to soak up the knowledge Young supplied. And in 2011, Adrian Beltre joined the team, shifting Young to the DH role and giving Andrus another veteran player right next to him on the infield who would dispense wisdom and help groom him into a Major League star.
"They're taking care of everything," Andrus said. "My first two or three years, I was just worrying about .. playing shortstop, being a mess on the basepaths and just getting on base, pretty much. Those are guys that you just have to see how they're approaching [the game] every single day.
"For me, it was easy. I was trying to do whatever Michael Young was doing offensively. There are guys who just want you to get better. They teach you the right way and they play the game hard, and that's all the things you see as a young player. It actually makes a lot of things easier for you."
Now, on the 10-year anniversary of the trade that brought the Rangers their shortstop of the past eight seasons, Andrus has been able to look back and use the lessons he learned then to step into a leadership role and share his own tips with younger players in the clubhouse.
"It makes a lot of difference to have somebody that's been in the game long enough and knows the goods and the bads, and how to react to different situations in the game," Andrus said. "You can experience that early in your career, and now that I went through all that, I have some times in the big leagues where I can teach younger guys how to go through the same things that I can see in myself from a few years ago.
"I think it's like a cycle to go through, and as long as you're willing to help, it's all good."
Sam Butler is a reporter for MLB.com based in Arlington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.