Eduardo Nunez’s career began to move backwards this year. He emerged as a big league utility man last season — erratic defensively, intriguing offensively — and he broke camp with plans of playing regularly against left-handers this season.
“I do envision him being very important to our club,” Joe Girardi said on the day spring training opened.
But by the middle of May, Nunez was back in the minor leagues to focus on playing shortstop. Within a few days in the minors, he was on the disabled list, having aggravated of a thumb injury he’d actually suffered in the big leagues. The injury cost him two months, he didn’t hit much when he came back, and when he returned to the big leagues as a September call-up, Nunez went nearly two weeks before finally starting a game in the field.
“It’s hard to go back to one position because we already have a shortstop, the greatest shortstop ever, I think,” Nunez said. “It’s hard, but I say it all the time: My time is coming one day. I have to keep working and keep working hard.”
Nunez’s time finally came these past few days. Derek Jeter’s bruised ankle left an opening for Nunez to play some shortstop and show off his bat. He hit pretty well (the Yankees know he can do that), he’s stolen bases (the Yankees know he can do that), and he’s let a groundball sneak under his glove (the Yankees know he can do that too). But as soon as Jeter is allowed to play the field again — and it’s Jeter, so you know he expected to be back at shortstop four days ago — Nunez will fall back into his world of uncertainty.
There’s a lot of reason to believe Nunez can have an impact at this level, and there’s a lot of reason to believe he’ll flop. But there’s little reason to believe we know anything about for certain. Can he become more consistent with consistent playing time? Has he earned regular at-bats the rest of the season? Will he make the the make the postseason roster?
And most difficult to predict, what in the world happens with him next season?
“I don’t know,” Nunez said. “I don’t know anything about that. It’s a good question, but I don’t know anything about it.”
Associated Press photo