ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Elvis Andrus refuses to be defined by what happened last October, and those two errors the Texas Rangers shortstop made on routine plays.
There was the misplayed grounder in that disastrous seventh inning of the ALDS-deciding fifth game at Toronto. Later came a dropped throw on what would have been a sure force out in the inning punctuated by Jose Bautista’s go-ahead homer and emphatic bat flip .
Tears flowed from Andrus’ eyes after that loss, a gut-punch finish likely just short of the feeling the Rangers had in 2011 after twice coming within a strike of winning their first World Series.
But out of that also came a fresh determination and drive for Andrus, who at 28 and in his eighth season is the team’s longest-tenured position player.
“I put it on my shoulder, and I’m built for that. I knew it was going to be a challenging year for me,” Andrus said. “But at the same time I was excited, I was excited to actually how see what I was made of, and the regular season is the first step. I think that I’m way more ready for the postseason this year.”
The AL West champion Rangers, in the playoffs for the fifth time in seven years, clinched home-field advantage for the entire postseason. They host Game 1 of the AL Division Series on Thursday against the Blue Jays, who beat Baltimore 5-2 in an 11-inning AL wild-card game Tuesday night.
With a career-best .302 batting average in the regular season, Andrus had his first .300 season. He also had career highs with eight home runs , 69 RBIs and 46 extra-base hits, and his 70 strikeouts were the fewest in his career.
Andrus views and treats third baseman Adrian Beltre like a big brother — “I’m the one being annoying,” Andrus said with a smile, a reference to some of their often entertaining interactions on the field and in the dugout.
Beltre knows what happened to Andrus in Toronto last year could have happened to anybody.
“We talked about it after that happened, and that kind of pushed him to learn from that mistake and have more motivation to come this year and do what he did,” Beltre said. “This year has been really good for him, and it was nice to see that instead of breaking him, it kind of made him stronger. Elvis has a really good mentality.”
General manager Jon Daniels said it still stands out to him, seeing an emotional and accountable Andrus at his locker after that season-ending loss, answering every question candidly. He said his shortstop immediately embraced the idea that he wanted to work to get better.
Daniels also spoke this week about Andrus taking more of a leadership role this season with younger players on the team, like Beltre and former teammate and current Rangers special assistant Michael Young have with the shortstop.
“Elvis works hard every offseason, so that part isn’t new,” Daniels said. “Elvis has been to the postseason a lot. … Since he’s been here, he’s only been on winning teams, and I think he understands how hard it is, and not to take it for granted. That’s what I saw this winter, was him kind of taking that realization and putting it into action.”
Andrus has seen the replays of those ALDS errors and that seventh inning a few times, and said it doesn’t affect him. Those clips are sure to be shown quite a few times this postseason, as long as the Rangers keep playing.
“I would like to see that quite a few times, especially before every game,” Andrus said. “See what it did to me. … I have no problem with that.”
More October baseball just makes for a better Elvis comeback.