Nunez farmed out to play SS regularly
That Eduardo Nunez was the player optioned Friday night to create roster space for Eric Chavez’s activation from the 7-day disabled list may seem cruel punishment for committing two errors the previous night. The Yankees eventually overcame Nunez’s fielding blunders to win the game. He was even part of the comeback with a pair of hits and a couple of stolen bases.
In point of fact, the Yankees’ farming out Nunez to Triple A Scranton was not based solely on what happened Thursday night, although manager Joe Girardi perhaps inadvertently tipped the club’s mitt when he replaced Nunez at third base with Jayson Nix in the sixth inning. It is not very often that you see a utility player removed from a game for a defensive replacement.
That situation was precisely the reason Nunez was sent down. The Yankees had been asking a 23-year-old to be their main utility player, a role usually reserved for a veteran whose future is limited. The Yankees still view Nunez as a potential every-day shortstop and that having him play several positions is not in the team’s best interest or that of his career.
“We don’t see him as a utility guy but as an everyday player,” Girardi said. “This is better for his development. The [Triple A] plan is for him to play six days a week at shortstop and one day at second base. His future is in the middle infield.”
It is doubtful Nunez was agreeable to the move, which is understandable. Everybody wants to stay in the major leagues once they have had a taste of it. Nunez has shown big-league ability as a hitter and a base runner. The latter skill will be particularly missed by the Yankees, who are not exactly a track team and will be without fleet left fielder Brett Gardner for a few more weeks.
Nunez’s instability in the field has been an issue the past two seasons. He made 20 errors in 110 games in the field last year and 6 in 18 games this season in the field where he was used at third base (8 games), shortstop (5), left field (3), right field (1) and second base (1). He batted .294 with 2 doubles, 1 triple, 5 RBI and 6 stolen bases this year after hitting .265 with 5 home runs and 30 RBI in 309 at-bats in 2010.
Nix, whose contract was purchased from Scranton May 3, will be the backup for shortstop Derek Jeter and second baseman Robinson Cano with Chavez backing up Alex Rodriguez at third base and Mark Teixeira at first base.
Girardi predicted that Nunez would be back, but with Jeter a fixture at shortstop for this season and the next, the question is whenever Nunez does return to the majors will it be for the Yankees?
“Things come along that you don’t expect,” Girardi said. “We didn’t expect [David] Robertson to be closing games for us.”