MESA, Ariz. -- Elvis Andrus is well aware of how spoiled he has been while playing on the left side of the infield over his career.
During his ascension to stardom in Texas, Andrus teamed with a generational talent in third baseman Adrián Beltré to patrol the left side for the Rangers. That partnership lasted from 2011-18. Now in Oakland after joining the A’s in a trade this offseason, Andrus will get a chance to team with another premier defender at the hot corner in Matt Chapman.
Though the two have only shared the infield in spring workouts for about two weeks to this point, Andrus knows all about the A’s star having played against him as American League West rivals over the past few years. Now that he’s able to watch Chapman up close, the veteran shortstop is experiencing a bit of déjà vu as he watches the third baseman employ a similar relentless work ethic to the one Beltré displayed over his illustrious 21-year career.
“The work ethic. They both have a really nice work ethic,” Andrus said comparing Chapman and Beltré. “Chappy is nonstop. That kid works. I get to the ballpark and he’s sweating. I leave the ballpark and he’s still sweating. They’re similar.
“They love the game. They’re really passionate about third base. They know they’re super talented, but at the same time humble enough to know they still need to work hard and want to get better, which is hard when you’re already at the top. I feed off his mentality. Every time I see him work, it’s a reminder for me to keep working hard.”
The similarities don’t stop there. When it comes to playing the field, Andrus said the two operate at the position with the same kind of smoothness, making highlight-reel plays look effortless.
“Every time they take ground balls, it’s poetry in motion,” Andrus said. “And when [Chapman] releases the ball, it’s a cannon. It’s really exciting to see it in person. It’s a lot of fun.”
There is one major difference: Andrus does not have the same chemistry with Chapman that he developed with Beltré. At least not yet. But that should come as the two new teammates acclimate to each other’s tendencies during Spring Training.
Andrus and Chapman have yet to play the field in a Cactus League game, as the A’s are easing Chapman back from the season-ending hip surgery he underwent last September by playing him at designated hitter early in the schedule. Once Chapman starts playing defense in games -- the A’s are targeting the second week of March for that -- Andrus wants the two to play as many innings as they can together to get on the same page before Opening Day.
“That’s one of the important things for me,” Andrus said. “I’ve played against him and I used to hate him so much because nothing goes through him. Now playing alongside him, I just need to know how much ground he actually covers so I can start thinking about the regular season. I just want to build that relationship with him.”
Chapman isn’t the only new teammate Andrus would like to get to know more. Entering his 13th Major League season, the 32-year-old also brings a leadership aspect to the A’s that took a hit with the departure of his predecessor at shortstop, Marcus Semien, over the winter. Andrus is already embracing the opportunity to give advice to any young players looking to utilize his extensive experience as a resource to better their game.
Among the players constantly approaching Andrus in camp have been Chapman and Ramón Laureano. Most of their questions have been about baserunning and stealing bases, something Andrus has excelled at with 305 stolen bases under his belt.
“That’s something that I noticed. They want to steal,” Andrus said. “Guys like [Laureano] and Chapman and the rest of the guys. I told them it’s not too hard. Stealing bases is not rocket science. I told them I’ll make sure they steal bases. Just stay healthy.
“They want to learn. They’re young and so talented, which is a rare combination now in the game. They look like they’ve been playing for years in the big leagues, but a bunch of them are barely going into their fourth year. Coming here, I knew it would be an amazing transition for me because I know I can help with my experience through the years.”
The transition is quite the 180. In Texas, Andrus was part of a club that was focused on the future in a rebuilding process that is expected to take at least a couple of years. Joining Oakland, he now is part of a surging club that has reached the postseason in each of the past three years, with aspirations of going even deeper in 2021 as it defends its AL West title. That winning atmosphere provides plenty of motivation for Andrus, who in addition to replacing a fan favorite in Semien is already out to prove he’s fully healthy and can still perform at a high level after a back injury limited the two-time All-Star to just 29 games and a .194 batting average last year.
“I do want to give a good impression to the fans,” Andrus said. “They always feed me energy, and I know what I can do out there to make them get up and get crazy. Especially in Oakland, those fans used to get on my nerves with how loud they were. Now that I’m here, I can’t wait for that to happen.
“I’m coming to an organization that is at the top and just wants to win. They have that winning mentality. That’s what I was missing the last few years. Competing for the playoffs and competing for a title, that’s what it’s all about.”