Rookie Andujar better than expected defensively

23-year-old has worked hard to improve; Yankees' bullpen dominating in June

June 23rd, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG -- There was little doubt Yankees prospect was ready offensively when he was called up to replace the injured at third base. Heading into Saturday afternoon's game, Andujar was batting .289, second among Major League rookies, with 35 extra-base hits, the most in the Majors. It has been his defense at the hot corner, however, that Yankees manager Aaron Boone has seen the greatest progress.

"When I started watching Andujar in the winter, I felt like there was a ways to go for him," Boone said. "But I also felt like he could do it. I would say at this point he has passed those expectations."

In his 57 starts at third base, Andujar has made just four errors in 128 total chances for a .969 fielding percentage, and he continues to get better every day, according to Boone. "All around, he's been an impact player for us," Boone said. "It's a credit to him because he works really hard. The work he puts in on a daily basis has made him a solid third baseman."

Planning for bullpen days

The Yankees will face Tampa Bay's non-traditional pitching rotation in every game of this three-game set. Before Saturday's game, the Rays announced that the team will also use another reliever as an "opener" to start Sunday's game. The strategy worked out well in the first game of the series, when six Rays relievers combined to allow just one earned run on five hits.

When it comes to filling out his lineup card, Boone admitted there isn't much he can do as far as a counter strategy when the opposing team runs out a succession of relievers.

"You do the best you can to make out the lineup with people in mind, but I don't think you can obsess too much over it," Boone said. "I think you can overthink it when trying to play the prediction game. We feel pretty good about the guys we roll out there."

Boone said that his priority when setting his lineups has more to do with getting guys days off while his team is on an extended road trip.

Relief crew

The Rays' bullpen days might be working for them, but the Yankees are having a bullpen month.

The Yankees' bullpen as a whole has not allowed an earned run in 14 of its last 18 games and have a combined ERA of 0.68 in its last 53 1/3 innings. During that span, opponents are batting just .198 against them, lowest in the Majors, and are stranding runners at an 86.8 percent clip, second only to the A's (87.3)

Leading the way has been closer , who has not been scored upon in 11 June appearances while striking out 16 hitters in 10 1/3 innings. Chapman isn't the only member of the bullpen to dominate over the last few weeks. has allowed just one hit in his last 12 appearances, striking out 22 batters along the way. has had similar success over his last 12 games, allowing just one earned run.

Part of the success of the bullpen can be tied to the success of the pitching staff as a whole in the month of June. This month, the Yankees have a 2.14 ERA as a team, best in the Majors.