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Andrus fitting in with Bakersfield
When the Texas Rangers acquired 18-year-old shortstop Elvis Andrus as part of the Mark Teixeira trade, they capitalized on a second chance to land the toolsy prospect. The club narrowly missed out on him as an international free agent in early 2005.
"Before I signed with the Braves, I almost signed with the Rangers," said Andrus.
Current Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels – who was the club's Assistant GM at the time – even attended a workout for the young shortstop before he signed.
"I had a tryout before I signed when I was 16-years-old," said Andrus. "It was in the Dominican Republic. The assistant GM, who is the GM right now, was there. There were a lot of high people there."
Andrus says quite a few of the organization's scouts became familiar with him after he made an appearance in the states at 15 years of age.
"The scouts had seen me because I played in the Area Code games in California when I was 15," he said. "They really know a lot about me and I know a lot about this organization. I feel like I'm at home here."
When looking at the numbers, it is easy to say Andrus has been disappointing at the plate, as he is hitting just .244 in 105 High-A games this season. However, Andrus prefers not to look at the statistics.
"I don't care about numbers," explained Andrus. "I never have in my life. I feel I've learned a lot this year and that is what I need to do. I'm younger, so I just need to learn, learn, learn at every level to get ready for the big leagues."
Though he has only been with the Blaze for a short time, Andrus feels he fits in well with Bakersfield manager Carlos Subero, a fellow Venezuelan.
"My manager, Carlos [Subero] is a really good infield coach," he said. "In the few days I've been here he's taught me a couple of things about fielding. He wants to see me running the bases all the time. He wants to see me aggressive all the time, so that's a good thing for me. I really like aggressive play, so I feel really comfortable with my manager and my team."
Already an advanced defender with a good arm and outstanding range, Andrus takes a great deal of pride in his improvement defensively. He credits his progression to hard work and practice.
"I just work hard," said Andrus when asked what he does to improve defensively. "That's what I do every day. I work hard in practice before the game. When you practice hard, you play well. I have a lot of good coaches, so I'm trying to take everything in. I'm trying to learn the game."
When it comes to his offensive game, Andrus says he likes to hit the ball to the opposite field.
"I hit a lot of balls to the other way," said Andrus. "My approach is always to the other way."
However, the talented right-handed hitter has been forced to make adjustments as his scouting report makes its way around the minor leagues.
"This year I've had to learn a little bit because they've thrown me a lot of inside pitches," he said. "I like to hit it the other way, but if I see something hanging like a slider or changeup then I'll pull it. That's something I have to keep learning."
While Andrus batted .244 in his time with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, he played in a pitcher's park. The 18-year-old shortstop batted just .189 at home versus .286 on the road. Needless to say, he wasn't a big fan of Myrtle Beach's Coastal Federal Field.
"I didn't really like the stadium," he said. "The gaps are really close. All the time when I made good contact or hit it in the gap, they would catch it. I didn't have really good luck at home, but when I went away I just felt better."
Moving to the hitter-friendly California League is something Andrus admits should be a positive change for him.
"Everybody says this league is a hitter's league," replied the shortstop. "They say the ball flies a little more here than the Carolina League. I feel real good up here and it will be a real good league to hit."
Despite the mediocre statistics, the Braves felt enough about Andrus' raw talent to select him for this year's MLB Futures Game, which was played in San Francisco during All-Star Weekend. It was an experience Andrus won't be likely to soon forget.
"It was amazing," said Andrus of his experience at the Futures Game. "Every guy wants to play in those games. That means they think you're one of the best players in the minor leagues. It was a really good experience for me and I give thanks to the Braves for giving me a chance."
When the 2007 season comes to a close in September, Andrus is likely to play in the instructional league, though he could compete in the Venezuelan Winter League.
"I really want to play," said Andrus when asked about playing over the offseason. "I'm younger and the only way to get experience is playing. I think I'll go to instructional league because it's a new organization and everything is different. They want to know more about me."
In addition to improving himself on the field, Andrus has worked hard to become a fluent English speaker in just three years of learning the language.
"Like I'm trying to learn fielding ground balls or hitting, that's what I do with my English," he said. "I'm trying to get better every year."
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