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Andrus excelling with RoughRiders06/23/2008 3:55 PM ET
By Shawn Shroyer / MLB.com
FRISCO -- Mark Teixeira's return to Arlington last week shined the spotlight back on to the trade that sent him to the Braves and five prospects to the Rangers last July.
The day after the Texas-Atlanta series ended, Elvis Andrus -- the youngest player involved in the trade -- returned from a fractured finger in his throwing hand to full-time duty as Double-A Frisco's shortstop. Two months shy of his 20th birthday, Andrus is the youngest player on the Frisco roster by more than two years.
But being the youngest player on the diamond is nothing new to Andrus.
"It's normal for me," Andrus said. "Since I started playing, I've been the youngest player in any league. It's given me strength. It's given me power in my mind, with my mindset. I don't care if I play with guys who are 25 or 30 years old. I know I can [play] better than those guys."
He wouldn't be where he is if he couldn't.
Despite his youth, Andrus has exhibited a slick glove and swift feet at every level of the Minor Leagues and he could be on the brink of taking his game -- which Baseball America rated the most exciting in the Carolina League a year ago -- to the next level. Now in the Texas League, Andrus entered the season as the Rangers' top prospect according to Baseball America, and he's living up to the billing.
"He's a tremendous talent and a tremendous kid. He has all sorts of abilities," Frisco manager Scott Little said. "But every once in a while you see the 19-year-old come out in him."
While the kid in Andrus sometimes leads to errors -- of which he has 81 in 278 career games -- and mental lapses, it also earned him a spot on the World roster in the Futures Game last season, as well as recognition as one of the most exciting players in the Minor Leagues.
"I've always been a smiling guy, a happy guy. I like to enjoy the game," Andrus said. "I can do everything. I can hit a home run, I can steal a base and I can turn a double play. I can do something different every day."
Between Atlanta's Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach and Texas' Class A Advanced Bakersfield clubs in 2007, Andrus mixed it up, hitting .257 with five home runs and 40 stolen bases in 126 games while turning 77 double plays. Just 18 years old for most of the season, he was the youngest player to spend the duration of 2007 no lower than Class A Advanced. While his hitting wasn't on par with his defense, he wound up hitting .315 in his last 31 games of the season.During that stretch, Andrus was included as a vital piece of the seven-player trade that sent Teixeira to the Braves. Andrus actually first found out a trade was in the works from Max Ramirez, with whom he played alongside for Atlanta's Class A Rome team and Frisco. "He said, 'When are you coming?' And I didn't know what he was talking about," Andrus said. "So, he told me I'd been traded. Then a couple of days later, the trade was official."
Andrus was taken by surprise when he was traded, but it didn't affect his play. In 27 games with Bakersfield, he hit .300 with two home runs and 15 stolen bases.This season, despite missing about three weeks with his finger injury, Andrus is batting .270 with one home run and 24 stolen bases, and he's been a part of 34 double plays at shortstop. Little said the biggest obstacle left for Andrus to overcome is he needs to understand the importance of consistency, whether at the plate or in the field. "His defense right now is ahead of his bat, but his bat is coming along," Little said. "It's going to be more of a trust and a maturity thing than a physical thing for him to improve as a player." Andrus said he gained some maturity this spring when he was a non-roster invite with the Rangers. In addition to hitting .353 with a stolen base in 15 games, Andrus talked to Michael Young every chance he got and asked him for tips on how to improve, rather than viewing him as competition for playing time. "I don't really think about him being at my position," Andrus said. "I just talked to him a lot, asked him a lot of questions, and learned a lot of things from him because I know he's a superstar." If Andrus keeps it up, a day will come when he's looked upon as the savvy veteran -- even if he's still the youngest player on his team.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.