Texas Rangers

Why birthday boy Andrus, 30, says 2018 is toughest season of career

A broken elbow forced Elvis Andrus to the disabled list in April for the first time in his career in what he said rates as the toughest season of his career.
A broken elbow forced Elvis Andrus to the disabled list in April for the first time in his career in what he said rates as the toughest season of his career. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

Straight from the file of Things That Make People Feel Old is this hard-to-believe yet undeniable fact: Elvis Andrus is 30 years old.

He hit the big three-oh Sunday and for the 10th consecutive season was the starting shortstop for the Texas Rangers on his birthday.

That 10-season thing probably makes a bunch of people feel old, too.

Much has changed since his rookie season, when things flew by in an instant. Andrus is set for life with a lucrative contract but also a wife, a son and another child on the way in November.

He also has done something this season that he had never done previously — he landed on the disabled list. It wasn’t just a hang nail that put him on the shelf for 10 games but a broken right forearm that cost him 59 games.

That’s two-plus months of the season after the best of his career, followed by two-plus weeks after his return of being nowhere near the player he had become the past two seasons.

Tough stuff, and on the morning of his 30th birthday, Andrus declared the that 2018 season has been the toughest of his career.

“In terms of challenges, I think this one,” Andrus said. “It’s been tough. What I’ve been through this year is new for me. It was pretty much like starting over in the middle season. It is what it is, and for me I’ll take it as a learning experience.”

Andrus drove in the Rangers’ only run Sunday in a 3-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants with a double off Derek Holland in the third inning. The former Rangers left-hander allowed just that run on three hits and a walk in 6 1/3 innings.

Andrus swatted 20 home runs last season and just missed batting .300 for the second consecutive season. Aside from average, he set career-highs in just about every offensive category.

He was hot to start this season. He was 17 for 52 (.327) with two homers, seven walks and one strikeout entering his ninth-inning plate appearance April 11 against Los Angeles Angels reliever Keynan Middleton.

The third pitch tailed inside at 96 mph and hit Andrus just below the right elbow. X-rays confirmed a fractured ulna.

“Before I got hit, I was feeling the best of my whole career,” Andrus said. My confidence level was right there at the top.”

He wanted to beat the six- to eight-week recovery time but learned fairly early that things weren’t going to move that quickly. He finally started a rehab assignment June 11, and promptly went 1 for 24.

The Rangers activated him anyway June 18, and by the All-Star break his batting average has slid to .247. He was trying to get back into midseason form against pitchers who were already there.

“When I got back, it was like going through spring training in the middle of the season, and that’s like when everybody is 100 percent or 120 percent,” Andrus said. “I thought it was going to be a lot easier to get back to 100 percent. But that’s the first time being hurt. I learned it’s not that easy. I knew physically I was feeling good, but mentally something was missing.”

Naturally, he sought the counsel of third baseman Adrian Beltre, who knows a thing or two about returning from injuries.

“I told him, ‘Welcome to the club,’” Beltre said. “I think it’s been tough. He’s not used to being on the DL. Mentally he’s tougher now.”

Andrus finished Sunday batting .266 in 297 at-bats. The double off Holland was only his second hit in 24 at-bats, and a 10-for-57 skid the past 14 games and has dropped his average 23 points after a career-best 19-game hitting streak.

He has only two homers since coming of the DL, and playing on back-to-back losing teams for the first time in his career has added to the trying season. But Andrus said that all is well physically, and the 30-year-old — 30! — getting there mentally, too.

“I learned almost a month ago that I need to keep working hard and I’ll get back to where I was,” Andrus said. “I thought I was going to be the same. The whole thought process changed. I feel confident. I feel good, but I’m not where I want to be, especially at this point in the season.”

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram