Just 21 and already in his second big league season, shortstop Elvis Andrus is making significant contributions to the Rangers, who began July in first place in the American League West. The slick-fielding Venezuelan, who placed second in AL Rookie of the Year voting to Oakland's Andrew Bailey last season, is hitting .292 with a .374 on-base percentage with 22 stolen bases and 55 runs entering the Rangers weekend series with the White Sox. He recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com:
MLBPLAYERS.com: Your Texas club is in first place in the AL West and that may surprise people. Are you at all surprised?
Andrus: Not really. I think last year we proved a lot of things. This organization just wants to continue to do what we started last year. I think we have a special team, a great team, and I think we have a strong bond. We know we can play well together.
MLBPLAYERS.com: This is your second season. Can you talk about the strides you have made in such a short amount of time?
Andrus: I feel a lot more comfortable this year. That has been a big key for me. When you are comfortable, it makes it easier to just go out and play baseball. I'm having a lot of fun this year.
MLBPLAYERS.com: A lot of players at your age do not have the success you have enjoyed at this level. Why do you think you have had such success at 20, 21 years of age?
Andrus: I think it has to do with the desire that I have. I'm very hungry to play baseball; I'm very anxious to play the game. That goes back to being a little kid. I also want to help my teammates. Last year I had a lot of guys help me. Omar Vizquel and our hitting coach then, Rudy Jaramillo, were huge. But everyone from our manager to our GM just lets me go out and play baseball. That is a big thing to me.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Coming up through the Braves system first and then with the Rangers, do you feel you were really brought up the right way?
Andrus: I played at every Minor League level except Triple-A, and I think I was treated very well. It has been a perfect scenario for me. A lot of things have gone right for me.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What were some of your highlights from last season, your rookie year?
Andrus: Every time I came to a new ballpark, I was like a little kid. For me playing in the big leagues was such a dream come true. A lot of what I remember will be going to a new ballpark for the first time. I would walk around and say to myself, 'Wow.'
MLBPLAYERS.com: You mentioned Vizquel earlier. How did he help you?
Andrus: He helped me in so many ways. He really helped teach me how to handle myself. He taught me that even when things are going great, you have to be the same person at all times. You have to work, and you cannot take practice or training for granted. I will take that advice and apply it for a long time.
MLBPLAYERS.com: This year Vladimir Guerrero joined your club. What has he meant to the Rangers so far?
Andrus: When I heard the news that we signed him, what was going through my mind was how he hits the ball. What I have learned since is that he is a great guy to talk hitting with. He looks like a shy guy, but he loves to talk hitting, and he knows so much about hitting. He is one of the best hitters in the history of baseball, yet he is humble.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You are again playing with Josh Hamilton, who is in the midst of a 23-game hitting streak. Have you seen a player in the zone like that before?
Andrus: It reminds me of last year when Michael Young was on a similar streak. But Josh is a guy who when he is healthy can perform like this. He is amazing. He is hot right now, and his talent is showing. He can do anything at the plate, and as his teammates, we hope he stays hot and we hope he stays healthy. He has such a great desire to play.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Last year your team was in a similar position in the standings before faltering down the stretch some. Why do you think that will not happen again this year?
Andrus: I think our key for this year is health. Last year we got hit hard by injuries the last two months and some of our main guys went down. Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton all got hurt. That is such an important part of the season. Now we just want to stay healthy and play. That will be the difference for us.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.