There was a relatively unremarkable play in Monday’s opening day win over the Indians that illustrates exactly why Elvis Andrus, at 20 years old, is playing with the big boys in 2009.
In the fifth inning, Shin-Soo Choo slapped a chopper up the middle. Andrus ranged to his left, gloved it and made the throw before anyone had a chance to wrap their mind around the freakish athleticism required to make that play, let alone make it look so easy, routine.
It was a minor play in the overview of the game, forgettable even. It was not a game-changing moment, it didn’t save a run or even a base.
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He’s also part of the reason why the trade that sent Mark Texeira to Atlanta in 2007 is looking increasingly like the baseball version of the trade that sent Herschel Walker to Minnesota in 1989.
The Rangers gave up Texeira and Ron Mahay. They received Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, among others. (If you don’t know who Neftali Feliz is, look him up here. He’s pretty good at baseball.)
According to just about anyone close to the organization, Andrus is a coach’s and a teammate’s dream -- young, eager to learn, and talented as all get-out.
The Caracas native went 1-4 in his Rangers’ debut with a double and a run.
Of course, there will be bumps in the road; it would be ridiculous to think that there won’t. But watching Andrus play on Monday, it would be equally ridiculous to think that the kid isn’t something special.
Defensively, Andrus may soon be the class of the league. He has a cannon of an arm, a slick glove and range, well, we all got a good look at that on Monday. At the plate, Andrus has improved at a dizzying pace; he hit .295 at AA Frisco last season.
Then there’s the speed threat; Andrus is one of those as well. He swiped 54 bags last season at Frisco. He even stole home a couple of times.
Only time will tell what kind of rookie season Andrus will have. It could be a shaky baptism by fire, or it could be, as Ken Rosenthal seems to think, worthy of the A.L. Rookie of the Year honors.
There will be road bumps, but there will also be a sense of youthful excitement in Arlington in 2009, for Andrus and everyone else, a sense that something special is happening before our very eyes. We may as well get used to it now.
Andrus and his young and talented brethren are going to be around a while.