SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Miguel Andujar and Amed Rosario took part in an intensive, three-day clinic last week in Tampa designed to focus on their defense.
Ulises Cabrera of Octagon, who represents both New York infielders, employed Mariners first base/infield coach Perry Hill to work last Wednesday-Friday with his clients. Hill has among the best reputations in the game when it comes to improving the defensive work of infielders, and Cabrera recognized questions linger about the fielding work of both Andujar and Rosario.
The Mets believe Rosario made huge strides last year, particularly in the second half after working with infield coach Gary Disarcina. But they sent Rosario into the offseason to focus on diving plays to his left and finding more consistency working toward his backhand to his right.
There has been a persistent narrative that Rosario might have to move to center field, but Brodie Van Wagenen says the improvement combined with Rosario’s age — 24 next week — makes the Mets believe his best is coming.
“I don’t see a scenario for him to be in center field,” the GM said.
Andujar worked exclusively at third base with Hill, but in gym sessions is beginning to work on items like footwork to better prepare for first base and the outfield if necessary.
“Andujar is giving himself a shot by making himself as versatile as possible,” Cabrera said.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman acknowledged the possibility of Andujar moving around as a way to get his bat into the lineup even if Gio Urshela plays third base in 2020, noting, “[Andujar] is a pretty special, talented player.”
Andujar, the AL Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2018 after producing 27 homers and an .855 OPS, missed almost all of 2019 following shoulder surgery. In his absence, Urshela emerged as a key contributor on both sides of the ball to an AL East winner.
Andujar also continues to rehab at the Yankees’ facility in Tampa, Cabrera said, doing baseball activities in the morning and agility work later in the day. He plans to go home to the Dominican on Friday before returning to Tampa about six weeks before spring training to prepare for the season.
Andujar’s defense at third was poor in 2018, but Cabrera insisted Hill helped him find a more consistent arm slot from which to throw and that the agility work is upgrading Andujar’s range.
“He’s coming full force, he’s excited,” Cabrera said. “He’s just going to be prepared for 2020. He hopes it is with the Yankees. If not, it’s not. There obviously has been a lot of chatter. He just wants to be a better version of himself than the last time you saw him.”
Cora on Mets’ radar
One name to keep in mind for the Mets’ bench coach job: Pittsburgh third-base coach Joey Cora. Mets special assistant to the GM Omar Minaya has a longstanding relationship with Cora, and new manager Carlos Beltran is close to Joey’s brother, Alex, the Red Sox’s manager.
The complication is that Cora could still be in play for the Pirates managing job, and they have yet to even name their GM. Cora has managed in the minors, including for the Mets, and served as Ozzie Guillen’s bench coach for both the White Sox and Marlins. He has coached for the Pirates the past three years.
Matt Blake has never made a mound visit during a game above the high school level. Yet, he will be asked to do so next year to counsel James Paxton, Luis Severino, Aroldis Chapman and the rest of the Yankees’ staff as their new pitching coach.
He had worked for the Indians since 2016, mainly behind the scenes on the art and science of pitching — deliveries, sequencing, etc. Now, at 33, he takes a huge jump to a New York team expecting to compete for a championship. Mickey Callaway was the successful pitching coach of the actual major league Indians when he made the jump to New York, never growing quite comfortable with the speed and passion of New York while the Mets’ manager.
“[Blake] has had a lot of interaction with coaches and pitchers,” Indians GM Mike Chernoff said. “He hasn’t coached a whole lot, which is the wild card in all of this. But at the same time the type of person he is combined with his knowledge there is no reason he wouldn’t succeed. I expect him to be a great person for this job.”
To that extent, Chernoff had told Brian Cashman after the hire that if the Yankees GM got cold feet, the Indians would gladly take Blake back.
“This is a guy we did not want to lose,” Chernoff said. “He has a chance to be a huge success.”
Pair could deliver ‘major’ impact from Far East
Japanese lefty slugger Yoshitomo Tsutugo is expected to be posted by the Yokohama Bay Stars as early as Friday. He is a corner player — first base and the outfield, whose selling point is his bat. He hit 29 homers last year in his age-27 season and as many as 44 in 2016.
Shogo Akiyama, who played with the Seibu Lions, is a free agent who can sign with any team. In his age-31 season last year, the lefty swinger produced 20 homers and a .303 average. A scout who covers Japan confirmed Akiyama’s rep “as an above average defender.”
The Mets are in the market for a center fielder. But I have heard Akiyama is not high on their list.
The Cubs made the playoffs four straight years from 2015-18. But diminishing returns since winning the title in 2016, including missing the
playoffs last year, combined with a weakened farm system and the second-highest payroll in the majors has Chicago openly admitting it is going to break up the team to some extent.
The most frequently named key players likely to be dealt are third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras, who are part of a group that depending on options being picked up or not can be free agents after the 2021 season. That group also includes Jon Lester, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Craig Kimbrel.
“We are going to have change,” GM Jed Hoyer said. “We have had a stable core for five years. Not sure what that looks like, since it will be somewhat market driven. But it is inevitable. We have a lot of our players for two more years of control. … We were pretty stubborn with this group because we won a World Series with this group and we won a lot of games. But at times a group needs a change, a different mix. Nothing wrong with that. With a lot of guys having two years of control, it feels like the right time to listen and see what that looks like.”
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