Brace yourselves, folks. I may say something nice about Eduardo Nunez in this post.
Derek Jeter has a plate and screws in his ankle. Derek Jeter is turning 39 in June. Derek Jeter is a Major League shortstop. The first two things listed do not bode well for the third. Regardless of what you think of Derek Jeter’s defense at the game’s most important position, we can all probably agree that this year will be a trying one for the Captain in the field. Most normal 39 year olds aren’t so hot at short, let alone dudes with a plate and screws in their ankles. We would expect to-be-26 year olds (Eddie and I are birthday twins, sharing June 15, 1987) to be better fielders. However, when that to-be-26 year old is Eduardo Nunez, the certainty isn’t there. Regardless, though, we’re sure to see Nunez at short plenty in 2013.
Joe Girardi has never been shy about resting players and I don’t think he’ll start doing it, even with Derek “I’m fine” Jeter. What helps the situation is that the Yankees’ vs. LHP situation is still a bit fluid. Juan Rivera is probably the early favorite to go into the season as the DH against lefties, so that may limit the time Jeter could get at DH. If they want to, the Yankees could put Rivera in the outfield with either Brett Gardner or Ichirio Suzuki sitting. That would potentially put Jeter at DH and Nunez, uncomfortably, at short.
In limited time–202 PA–Nunez has been effective against lefties. He’s hit .298/.332/.436 against them, good for a .333 wOBA and a 106 wRC+. That makes me a little more comfortable with giving him semi-regular playing time. His fielding is likely to be a disaster. Perhaps just sticking at one position will help him, but I’m not going to hold my breath. He hasn’t been a solid fielder for how long now? I highly doubt he’s going to turn it around all of a sudden. Still, it’s worth noting that the playing time he could potentially have will be rather limited. That, in turn, means limited opportunities to make an error or a slip up in the field. If it saves Derek Jeter for later in the season, I’m more or less in support of Eddie getting a handful of starts at short against lefties while Derek DHs early in the season.
As an aside, I want to nip in the bud any ideas of Eduardo Nunez moving into the outfield. He’s a shaky fielder at a position he’s fielded all his life, but somehow, learning a new position that requires an entirely different skill set at the Major League level will be successful? I’m not buying that at all. Nunez, through no fault of his own, probably doesn’t know how to properly read an outfield fly ball or how to approach a ball on the ground that he needs to throw in to a cutoff man. Hell, the dude has problems setting and fielding a grounder like an infielder. Do we really expect him to charge a ball, get his glove hand/foot in sync, and come up in a crow hop effectively? I’m definitely not buying this. I’m not a big believer in Nunez at all, but that isn’t to say he’s worthless to the team or can’t fit as a useful piece. If he can somehow avoid myriad errors and still hit lefty pitching, he can contribute.
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