Andrew Vaughn spent most of his first two major-league seasons in the outfield.
With José Abreu’s departure to the Houston Astros, Vaughn is making the move to his traditional position at first base.
“You still have to keep working every day,” Vaughn said Monday of the transition. “You’ve got to get better. I wasn’t at first too much the last couple of years, more in the outfield. Just got to try to do my best in spring and get ready for the boys.
“That’s what I played for so many years. I’ve always been an infielder. Learning the outfield was definitely tough. It was different. It’s completely opposite from the infield. (I’m) excited and ready to go.”
The No. 3 pick in the 2019 draft has impressed rookie Sox manager Pedro Grifol.
“He’s been working his butt off here,” Grifol said Thursday. “He looks like he’s really comfortable at first base. We all know he’s a really good hitter and he’s at the beginning of developing into the player that he’s going to be.
“As good as he’s been thus far, he’s just scratching the surface.”
Vaughn, 24, made 100 starts in the outfield as a rookie in 2021, 86 in left and 14 in right. He had 10 starts at first base.
Last season Vaughn had 79 starts in the outfield (40 in left, 39 in right) and 22 starts at first.
“Outfield is more explosiveness to the ball,” he said. “Infield is more quickness, footwork, lateral stuff. So there’s some give and some take with it.”
Vaughn juggled adjusting to the outfield with hitting big-league pitching. He slashed .271/.321/.429, leading the Sox with 17 homers and 76 RBIs in 2022.
“There’s a lot of things that I definitely want to improve on,” Vaughn said. “It’s definitely tough to do it throughout the season. That’s why in the offseason I was working on some things. Getting ready to go into this season full force.”
Hitting coach José Castro said Vaughn has a “high ceiling with him.”
“This kid hits the ball everywhere,” Castro said Wednesday. “We’re trying to keep him off the ground to the pull side. He’s been working on that and he’s getting some really good work in.”
Regardless of where he plays, Vaughn’s mindset is to avoiding taking his at-bats with him to the field.
“That’s separate,” Vaughn said. “Keep those separate and work on getting better throughout the season and trying not to hit that wall and get over it.”
Vaughn slashed .301/.350/.470 in the first half last season and .234/.285/.381 after the All-Star break. He put in endurance work, including cardio and lifting, hoping to avoid hitting a wall late in the season.
“That was my second time playing 162,” Vaughn said. “Did a little bit better but personally I want to do a lot better. Getting the legs ready and just being able to play 162, that’s the goal.”
The Sox know it’s not on just one player to replicate Abreu’s production.
“It’s definitely tough losing Pito,” Vaughn said. “Everybody knows who he was to this organization. It’s a business but we have to push forward and we have to pull our own.”
Abreu signed a three-year deal with the Astros in November. He had six 100-RBI seasons in nine years with the Sox.
“This lineup runs deep, so nobody in this lineup should put any added pressure about carrying the load,” Grifol said. “Everybody needs to be themselves, work to maximize their ability and the depth we have is going to take care of the rest.
“All we have to do is work and prepare ourselves as hard as we can to maximize their ability.”
Vaughn said it remains to be seen whether moving back to the infield will put less stress on his legs.
“It’s just going to be a process throughout the whole season,” Vaughn said. “Just maintaining the balance of it, keeping my legs healthy the whole time.”