Tuesday notes: Another opportunity for Nunez • 02.19.13
It’s going to be a while before Derek Jeter is ready to play in games, and that means playing time for someone else. Most notably, it means playing time for Eduardo Nunez.
“I can’t kill him,” Joe Girardi said. “I can’t play him nine innings every day, but he’s going to play a substantial amount.”
Nunez and Jeter went through shortstop drills together again today, and the Yankees plan to keep Nunez at short this spring, and there’s little doubt that the Yankees idea of letting Jeter DH against lefties in the regular season leaves a legitimate opportunity for Nunez to get big league playing time again.
“I want Jeter to be healthy again and play how he plays,” Nunez said. “But for now, it’s my opportunity to show I can play every day and show I can play defense. I can do different things than people think I can do. … I feel great right now. My confidence is (high). I know what I can do. I know what kind of player I can be, and that I can be right now.”
Girardi said the Yankees will look for consistency out of Nunez, and that should come as little surprise. Nunez has shown flashes of being a valuable big leaguer — most recently, he played well during his short time playing in Jeter’s place during the ALCS — but his defensive lapses are well documented.
“He has to earn it,” Girardi said. “We’ve got to toy with some different options, but we liked what he did at the end of last year. We know he provides a lot of excitement. Our plans are probably to keep him at short for the most part — we did talk about that — but he does have to earn it.”
Girardi said there’s a chance the Yankees could carry both Nunez and Jayson Nix, but it would leave the Yankees without a left-handed pinch hitter, which they’d like to have. Ultimately, Girardi repeated his familiar promise to carry the best players to make up the best team. Nunez will have a chance to put himself in that group.
“Jeter’s a Gold Glove,” Nunez said. “Cano’s a Gold Glove. (So are) Teixeira and A-Rod. You don’t see too many errors from these guys. When they come to me, I make an error, it’s a big thing. … It was a little bit in my mind, frustration for that, but I thank Jeter, thank A-Rod (and) thank Cano. They talked to me a lot and teach me how to fix that.”
• Here’s Girardi explaining the Phil Hughes injury: “It’s upper back, up here by his shoulder blades, so we’ll see how he is in a couple of days. The good thing is he was ahead of where he probably would normally be at this time, which helps. … You’re usually more concerned about the lower lingering. But until it’s gone, it’s going to linger. That’s like a Yogi-ism.”
• Despite being ahead of most of the other big league pitchers, Hughes was not in consideration to start Saturday’s spring opener even before the injury.
• Austin Romine said he’s more or less stopped thinking about his back. He doesn’t really notice it any more. Bascially a week into spring training and Romine’s had no problems so far. He’s very optimistic that he’s gotten past the problem.
• Haven’t heard much about Michael Pineda lately. He said today that his shoulder still feels good, but he’s not scheduled for another bullpen until Friday.
• David Phelps gets the opening start on Saturday, and although Girardi didn’t talk about it today, he’s always made it clear in the past that early spring outings don’t carry a lot of weight. I can’t imagine Phelps is going to feel that way. This is what he said earlier in camp: “I pushed myself a little more in the offseason so my arm is ready a little quicker during spring training because I’m trying to make an impression.”
• Speaking of making an impression, I didn’t see it, but there was some buzz today about Ichiro Suzuki’s behind-the-back catch during outfield drills. I asked Brett Gardner to describe it and Gardner started laughing. “That’s my fault,” he said. “I told him to do it.” Gardner said that Ichiro has a variety of behind-the-back catches that he’ll do every once in while when the team is shagging fly balls. Gardner wanted to see a few today, and Ichiro was up to the task. Girardi said he didn’t see Ichiro do it today, but “I’ve seen him do it before,” Girardi said.
• Mark Teixeira’s last day in Yankees camp is March 2. Robinson Cano’s last day is March 3. After that, those two will join their World Baseball Classic teams to prepare for the tournament.
• Random conversation of the day was with new outfielder Thomas Neal. If a handshake is any indication of a man’s strength, Neal just might be a 40-homer guy. I’m not sure how he uses a cell phone without crushing it. Seriously, Neal said he got some interest from the Yankees pretty soon after being designated for assignment, but he took some time making his decision on where to sign. He decided the Yankees were the best fit, with the potential for a real opportunity.
• Matt Diaz tried to convince me to write a story about his son’s tee-ball team. Seriously. He thinks that group has a real shot this year.
Associated Press photos
I feel like I’ve written this before, and it remains perfectly true: I rarely notice uniform numbers. I know that Jeter is No. 2, and Mariano is No. 42, but if you go too far beyond the obvious name-number combinations, I really have to think about it to put the two together.
Further proof that there are endless ways to enjoy this game.
This morning, Vincent wrote all about numbers. Not sabermetrics, but the numbers on the players’ backs, including Shelley Duncan wearing No. 17 when he made his big league debut in 2007. I covered Shelley in the minors that season, and I was paying quite a bit of attention when he got to the big leagues, but there’s no chance I could have told you what number he was wearing. None.
Some baseball fans want to see superstars, and some prefer on-the-rise prospects. Some have legitimate opinions on Class-A utility infielders, and some had never heard of Melky Mesa until he failed to step on third base last season. Some watch games on TV, some listen on radio, and some follow along online while they engage in conversations on forums and blogs (we like those folks!). Some study the game’s history, some worry about the future, and some just like the hats.
Baseball makes room for all types of fans. It’s one of the great things about the game.
Another great thing about the game, at least in my position: Media guides. Thanks to my latest copy, here are some other obscure recent names who wore the numbers Vincent mentioned.
11 — Chris Widger, Morgan Ensberg
17 — Justin Christian, Kevin Cash, Chad Moeller
19 — Chris Basak, Kevin Thompson, Tyler Clippard
22 — Colin Curtis, Chad Huffman, Brian Gordon, Greg Golson
33 — Kelly Stinnett, Brian Bruney
• In an interview with MLB Network, Derek Jeter said he doesn’t expect to start running until spring training, but he still fully expects to be ready for Opening Day. “(The ankle) feels good now,” Jeter said. “Right where I feel it should be.”
• Brian Cashman creating a minor stir when he acknowledged on radio that Alex Rodriguez could miss the entire season if his recovery from hip surgery doesn’t go as expected. Also, the Daily News reported that a Rodriguez associate is being investigated in connection to performance enhancing drugs.
• The Yankees avoided arbitration with Dave Robertson, signing him to a one-year, $3.1-million deal. He was their last arbitration-eligible player without a contract.
• Joe Torre told reporters that there’s still a chance Andy Pettitte will pitch in the World Baseball Classic. According to Torre, Team USA wants Pettitte but the Yankees have expressed some discomfort in letting him play.
• The Yankees agreed to a minor league deal with left-handed first baseman Dan Johnson. He could have a chance to win regular at-bats as a designated hitter. The Yankees also signed right-handed outfielder Thomas Neal to a minor league deal with an invitation to big league camp.
• Speaking of minor leaguers coming to big league camp, Tyler Austin announced in an interview that he’s been invited to big league camp. The Yankees have yet to announce a full list of non-roster invitees.
• Yogi Berra and Joba Chamberlain were each honored at the annual B.A.T. dinner in New York.
• Several potential fits came off the board: Outfielder Justin Upton was traded to the Braves, catcher George Kottaras was claimed by the Royals, outfielder Jeff Baker signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, catcher Yorvit Torrealba signed a minor league deal with the Rockies, outfielder Scott Hairston signed a two-year deal with the Cubs and outfielder Delmon Young signed a one-year deal with the Phillies. Mark DeRosa, Ryan Raburn and Ben Francisco also signed last week.
Associated Press photos
Just a few quick notes from this cold Monday.
• The Yankees have signed outfielder Thomas Neal to a minor league contract. I believe it was Josh Norris who first pointed out that Neal’s twitter page described him as a member of the Yankees organization (that’s where I first saw it, anyway), and today Brian Cashman confirmed the signing. That’s one more right-handed outfield bat to put in the mix. Neal got into nine games for the Indians last season, and he’s put up pretty good minor league numbers. He’s primarily played the outfield corners, with a little bit of time at first and in center. Neal was designated for assignment and eventually released when the Indians signed Nick Swisher.
• Speaking of the Indians — and speaking of right-handed outfielders — Cleveland has agreed to minor league deals with Ben Francisco and Ryan Raburn. Both could have been cheap, fringy options for the Yankees bench. I especially like Raburn, who has a lot of defensive flexibility and has actually hit pretty well against lefties in his career.
• Speaking of minor league deals, the Mets have signed lefty Pedro Feliciano. The veteran signed a two-year deal with the Yankees before the 2011 season, but a shoulder injury kept him on the disabled list through the entirety of the contract. He’ll return to the Mets, where he pitched — probably too much — before signing with the Yankees.
• Down in Trenton, the Thunder have announced that they’re installing a big video board at Arm & Hammer Park. That’ll be a nice addition down there.
• In his new gig over at CBS Sports, Mike Axisa takes a look at the core of the Yankees determines that the current cornerstone of the franchise isn’t Robinson Cano (contract expires too soon), Derek Jeter (face of the franchise, but not necessarily the roster keystone), or Alex Rodriguez (more problem than solution at this point). Mike writes that it’s CC Sabathia who the Yankees seem to be building their team around. It’s good stuff, as always. Congratulations to Mike, who I’ve gotten to know a little bit over the years, and who does terrific work with Joe, Ben and the rest of the crew over at River Ave. Blues. He’ll be a nice addition to that CBS blog, and thankfully he’s not abandoning RAB.