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Winter ball updates: Nunez at third, Mustelier in center, Garcia on the radar

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A few updates on Yankees playing winter ball, where teams have entered into the postseason.

[2]Eduardo Nunez played in 12 regular season games in the Dominican Winter League, and in the last four he started at third base. A team source said the Yankees were fine with the decision to use Nunez at third, but they did not specifically ask the team to play him at third. Nunez has played in only three postseason games — he’s not hurt, just hasn’t been playing every day — all of them back at shortstop.

• A mild whiplash scare [3] didn’t keep Francisco Cervelli from putting up a .305/.432/.525 slash line in Venezuela. He’s expected to rejoin his winter league team but has yet to appear in a postseason game. Even during the regular season, Cervelli basically split time behind the plate with Jesus Flores and Carlos Maldonado.

Adonis Garcia, an under-the-radar prospect [4] out of Cuba, reached Double-A last season, then hit .292/.319/.481 this winter in Puerto Rico. He was off to a solid start in the postseason — four hits including a home run in the first four games — before some tightness in his quad forced him to the bench. Yankees vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman says the injury is “not serious” and that Garcia is worth watching. He can play all three outfield positions, and the Yankees believe he can hit, especially against lefties.

[5]• Speaking of Puerto Rico, one of the Yankees top infield prospects, Angelo Gumbs, was one of Garcia’s teammates in Puerto Rico. Gumbs was basically the second base backup to Royals utility infielder Irving Falu, who’s from Puerto Rico and played second pretty much every day this winter. Gumbs held his own, though, getting into 13 games and hitting .306/.333/.472. Someone said in the blog comments or in an email — can’t remember which — that Gumbs is listed somewhere as being a shortstop in Puerto Rico. That may be true, but all of his time in the field has come at second base.

• Generally viewed as a four-corners utility player, Ronnier Mustelier actually finished the Mexican Winter League regular season as the everyday center fielder for Culiacan (he was the team’s regular third baseman through most of the season). Mustelier hit .284/.345/.471 in the regular season, then hit .385/.500/.692 during a four-game sweep in the first-round of the playoffs. He started at third base for two of those playoff games and in center field for the other two.

Melky Mesa got into just 14 games during the Dominican League regular season, but in that limited playing time he managed 12 RBI, in part because he slugged .482 with five doubles, a triple and two home runs. He’s gotten into only one playoff game and went 3-for-5 with a double and a home run. Just like Nunez, Mesa is not healthy, just not playing regularly.

• A kind of fringey utility prospect, Jose Pirela had a strong Double-A season last year and followed it by hitting .264/.345/.373 as a regular second baseman in Venezuela. He moved to left field late in the season and has mostly stayed through into the playoffs. He’s hitting .304/.429/.435 through seven postseason games.

[6]• Left-handed reliever Juan Cedeno, who was plucked out of obscurity last winter and had a strong Triple-A season, pitched to a 3.48 ERA and .228 opponents’ batting average in the Dominican this winter. Problem is, lefties actually hit .292/.419/.292 against him (righties hit just .208/.279/.260).

• Strong winter for 24-year-old Preston Claiborne, who had a 3.04 ERA and held opponents to a .190 average in Puerto Rico. In his final 10 innings, Claiborne allowed two runs on seven hits, one walk and 12 strikeouts. Both of the runs and four of the hits came in his final outing.

• One of the organization’s wild cards is lefty Vidal Nuno, who signed out of independent ball in 2011, had a 2.45 ERA in 20 Double-A starts last season, and has now pitched to a 2.52 ERA and .193 opponents’ batting average in the Venezuelan Winter League. Nuno worked out of the bullpen this winter and had a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He doesn’t fit the typical prospect profile, but at 25 years old there’s a chance he has enough upside to at least be a big league candidate as a left-handed reliever in the near future.

[7]• Another lefty is Francisco Rondon, who does qualify as a prospect after being added to the 40-man roster this offseason. He had 11 strikeouts in just 5.2 innings in the Dominican this winter, but he also walked four and allowed seven hits. He’s pitched one hitless, scoreless, walkless inning in the postseason. Needs to add some control, but Rondon does have a big arm and should be ready for Triple-A this season.

• Zach Arneson, the Yankees ninth-round pick in 2011, missed almost all of last season with neck and shoulder issues. [8] This winter he went to Australia — of all places — and has thrived with a 0.56 ERA, 19 strikeouts, six walks and four hits allowed through 16 innings of relief. The one earned run he’s allowed actually scored on someone else’s watch.