DALLAS — Everybody loves Elvis, so everyone was saddened and worried when Elvis was hit with a pitch less than two weeks into the season that fractured his elbow and shelved him for 6-8 weeks. The prospects of a winning season in Arlington were already low, but Andrus’ broken elbow seemed like a gut punch.
It turns out Andrus’ injury was just another in a long list so far this year – including his two infield-mates Rougned Odor and Adrian Beltre, but Elvis’ injury was different.
The 29 year old shortstop was coming off his best year as a pro and is in an option year on his contract. He could elect to leave and test the free agent market, potentially after two of his strongest years.
Elvis taking a step forward into an offensive leader on the team as his on-field buddy and clubhouse mentor Adrian Beltre starts to wane into the twilight of his career was one of the few highlights of the 2017 Rangers’ season, and he would definitely draw interest on the open market if he were to test it.
Another reason this injury was different was the physicality of the injury itself. Hamstrings, groins, shoulders – things that players hurt all the time start to become second nature to baseball fans. They can’t physically see the injury occurring – just the symptoms of a hobbled player or a wince in pain, but Elvis’ injury was right there for us all to see.
You could feel that inside fastball hit Elvis right on that bony part of your elbow you occasionally hit, and immediately have to grab and verbally react as if you were hit by a speeding bus. It was like we were all rolling around on the ground, writhing in pain, just by the sheer visual of that ball hitting Elvis in the elbow.
He was hit with two outs in the bottom of the 9th – in a game the where the Rangers were trailing by five runs and where the next batter flew out to end the game. In the grand scheme of things the at-bat was totally pointless, until that injury at least. It landed Elvis on the DL for this first time in his 10 year big league career, and removed him from the active roster for just the second time – he missed three games in 2016 for the birth of his son.
That DL stint meant the loss of that Elvis smile, and a big hole in the lineup.
Here we were, two months to the day after Elvis was rolling on the ground on a pleasant mid-April night in Arlington, and it was a balmy night in Frisco. So warm and humid in fact that Andrus would joke, “After the second inning I thought I was not going to be able to play because of how hot it is out there and humid…” but he got his legs under him and began to feel comfortable again.
When asked if it was strength in the elbow he was worried about, or just the rhythm of fielding and throwing he said, “yeah, it’s just being able to not feel anything and don’t think about it (the injury), that was the biggest concern for me, and I’m really glad that I didn't feel anything, everything was really good.”
There was an intriguing pitching prospect, Jonathan Hernandez, making his AA debut but the real story on this night was the guy with the compression sleeve on his extremely valuable right elbow, the one with the big league pants, Rangers’ batting helmet, cleats that don’t match his team’s colors and the familiar number 1 on his jersey.
While you could easily see that he’s a big leaguer among a bunch of Double-A players, Andrus had an extremely ordinary night. Going 0-for-3 at the plate and making a few routine plays at shortstop in five innings of work. The earth is getting back on its axis and Elvis is making his way back to Arlington – sooner than later, but big questions remain about the long-term future of Elvis and his Rangers teammates.
Elvis may be in the final days of his time with infield brother and father figure Adrian Beltre, or even in the twilight of his own days as a Ranger. While it will be nice to get Elvis back, his replacements have begun to make names for themselves.
Jurickson Profar, in his first real long-term look at the big league level, has begun to capitalize on his opportunity and may force the Rangers to find playing time when it comes time to bring Elvis back.
Would it make sense to move Profar over to second and place the struggling Rougned Odor on the bench? Should the Rangers capitalize on the momentum Profar seems to be building and ship him to a contender in need of a middle infielder?
Does it make sense to market Andrus in addition to the veteran rentals that the Rangers will have on the trading block this summer, leaving Elvis the option of cashing in his option and remaining with that team for the long term?
All of these are very real (and some very scary) possibilities and Andrus’ healthy return makes the future for the Rangers all the more intriguing. Proof that even in a down year, there are plenty of reasons to stay up to date with the goings on in Arlington and the rest of the league because it’s years like this that pave the way for years like the Rangers were experiencing when we were first getting to know that trademark Elvis smile and hustle, something Frisco fans got to see up close and personal on Monday once again – nearly 10 years since his last swim through the Frisco humidity.
How would you like to see the playing time distributed when Elvis Andrus returns to the Rangers? Share your thoughts on the matter with Chris on Twitter @realchrisroland.