Texas Rangers

The Year of Elvis hasn’t gone the way Andrus hoped. Here’s how he plans to recover in 2020

A simple question, one that is lobbed to all players at this time of an MLB season, seemed to stump Elvis Andrus.

How does the Texas Rangers’ shortstop feel about his season?

“That’s a great question,” he said Wednesday.

The 2019 MLB season was to be his season, one in which he would be fully healthy after a fractured arm in 2018 and would take over the leadership reins from the retired Adrian Beltre.

His last healthy season was the best of his career. He batted nearly .500 in spring training. He saw immediate results defensively and on the bases.

Baby Shark was his walk-up music.

Now, though, he can’t break out of a second-half funk even though he knows what is wrong and how to fix it.

Bad habits are hard to break.

Now, back to that answer.

“It depends,” Andrus said. “I feel during this year that I got a lot better defensively. Stealing bases was one of the things I worked hard on in the off-season. Hitting-wise I felt great the first half. The second half I just hit a funk. Since July, it’s been a lot of ups and downs, especially not having consistency with my approach.”

Not even the leadership stuff has been easy. It’s been a learning season for Andrus in that regard.

The season started off with the clubhouse humming. Winning helps. But Andrus said that the chemistry broke down after the All-Star break, after the eight-game slide that took them out of contention, after players from the minor-leagues started spinning in through the rotating clubhouse door.

It wasn’t Pittsburgh Pirates stuff but rather communication issues that arose from existing players not knowing the new players and taking too long to get on the same page.

“Toward the end it feels a lot better,” Andrus said. “Personally, I learned a lot this year. I knew it was going to be a process, knowing it wasn’t going to be an easy job to maintain everything, but I think it was meant to happen this way. I already have an idea of how it’s going to be better next year.

“I always say the way you play outside is a reflection of how you the clubhouse is.”

He knows how he is going to be a better player, too.

Andrus knows his approach has left him. He is chasing pitches, can’t stop it, and pitchers know that.

His average was sitting at .272 Thursday with a below-average .696 OPS as the Rangers enjoyed an off day ahead of their three-game weekend series against the Oakland A’s.

The swing woes are an easy fix, he said.

“I don’t want to do it, but it’s muscle memory,” Andrus said. “When I get out of the zone, I get defensive. That’s an adjustment the league did. They did not throw me fastballs. A lot of breaking balls out of the zone. I’m getting out of the zone and making weak contact, and it was hard for me to make the adjustment.

“It’s about having a good selection of pitches allow you to always have your A swing. For me, it’s going back to having a good base and being consistent, and that will allow me to drive balls.”

Andrus is also planning to drop 10 or 15 pounds to help make him quicker and to help him continue to play shortstop. He has no interest in leaving the position, but recognizes that Father Time is catching up to him.

He’s only 31, but 2019 was his 11th MLB season.

That’s a lot of mileage, but, despite a disappointing season, Andrus still has gas in the tank.

“It will help my all-around game,” Andrus said. “I’m really excited going into the off-season and fixing those little things I need to to be better to have a monster year next year.”

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After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.
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