Núñez with the New York Yankees
|Minnesota Twins – No. 9|
June 15, 1987 |
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
|August 19, 2010, for the New York Yankees|
(through 2015 season)
|Runs batted in||120|
Eduardo Michelle Núñez Méndez (born June 15, 1987) is a Dominican professional baseball utility player for the Minnesota Twins of Major League Baseball (MLB). He played in MLB for the New York Yankees from 2010 through 2013. Although shortstop is his primary position, the Yankees used Núñez as a utility infielder, and played him in the outfield as well.
The Yankees signed Núñez as an international free agent in 2004. He played minor league baseball in their organization from 2005 through 2010, until he made his MLB debut with the Yankees on August 19, 2010. He has served to allow Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez the ability to take days off in the field. Due to struggles and inconsistency, the Yankees designated Núñez for assignment at the start of the 2014 season.
The New York Yankees signed Núñez as an international free agent in February 2004. The organization introduced him to Derek Jeter, his childhood idol, at a press conference, where they told Jeter that Núñez was to be their eventual replacement for Jeter as the Yankees' starting shortstop.
Núñez made his professional debut in minor league baseball with the Staten Island Yankees of the Class A Short Season New York-Pennsylvania League in the 2005 season. Nunez represented the Yankees in the league's All-Star Game. That season, the Yankees won their third consecutive league championship, and Nunez was rated as the fourth-best prospect in the New York-Penn League. Going into the 2006 season, Baseball America ranked Núñez the sixth-best prospect in the Yankees organization, and the prospect with the best throwing arm. The Yankees started Núñez with the Tampa Yankees of the Class A-Advanced Florida State League in 2006; he struggled with Tampa, and the Yankees demoted him to the Charleston RiverDogs of the Class A South Atlantic League (SAL) on May 17. Overall, Núñez had a .214 batting average for Tampa and Charleston.
In 2007, Núñez started the season with Charleston, and was named the starting shortstop for the Southern Division in the SAL All-Star Game. He was promoted to Tampa on July 28. He played for Tampa in 2008, batting .271 with six home runs and 42 runs batted in (RBI) in 94 games. He was promoted to the Trenton Thunder of the Class AA Eastern League for the 2009 season. With Trenton, he had a .322 batting average in 123 games and appeared in the Eastern League All-Star Game, in which he got two hits. The Yankees promoted Núñez to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees of the Class AAA International League for the 2009 playoffs. Following the 2009 season, the Yankees added Núñez to their 40-man roster to protect him from being selected by another franchise in the Rule 5 draft. In 2010, the Yankees assigned Núñez to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. There, he batted .289 in 118 games, with 55 runs scored, 25 doubles, three triples, four home runs, 50 RBI, and 23 stolen bases. He was named to the International League All-Star team, the postseason All-Star team, and the Topps Triple-A All-Star Team. Núñez won the Kevin Lawn Award as the Yankees' minor league player of the year for 2010.
New York Yankees
Núñez was called up to the majors for the first time on August 19, 2010 after Lance Berkman was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Núñez debuted on the same day, replacing Jeter in the seventh inning and fouling out in his only plate appearance. Núñez received playing time as a fill-in for Jeter and the then-injured Alex Rodriguez. On August 21, Núñez recorded his first major league hit, a go-ahead RBI single into right field. Núñez hit his first career home run against the Chicago White Sox on August 28, 2010. He also stole his first career base the same day. In 30 games for the Yankees, Nunez hit .280, with one home run, seven RBIs, and scored 12 runs. After the season, Baseball America rated him as the eighth-best prospect in the Yankees organization, while also naming him the "Best Defensive Infielder" and the "Best Infield Arm" in the Yankees organization. Núñez was part of the Yankees postseason in case Jeter or A-Rod get injured again. The Yankees ventured through the playoffs until losing to the Texas Rangers in the 2010 ALCS.
Núñez beat out Ramiro Peña for the role as the utility infielder to start the 2011 season. With the Yankees, Núñez played approximately two games a week, allowing Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez to rest more often. Núñez batted .339 while filling in for the Yankees as their starting shortstop for three weeks while Jeter was injured; he later became the team's starting third baseman when Rodriguez required arthroscopic knee surgery. In addition to playing various infield positions, manager Joe Girardi also used Núñez as an outfielder when Nick Swisher experienced tendinitis in his elbow. Núñez played in 112 games for the Yankees, and led the team in errors with 20, despite only playing part-time.
Despite his defensive struggles, the Yankees viewed Núñez as likely to make their 25-man roster out of spring training in 2012 as a utility infielder. With Brett Gardner, the Yankees' starting left fielder, injuring his elbow, Núñez received playing time in left field, as well as the infield. In his first twenty games of the 2012 New York Yankees season, Núñez hit .294, but committed four errors in 58 chances. The day after he committed two errors in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Núñez was demoted to the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team. The team decided to abandon their approach of using Núñez as a utility player so that he can receive daily playing time at shortstop and second base, as the organization still views him as an everyday shortstop.
On September 1, 2012, the Yankees promoted Núñez from Triple-A and manager Joe Girardi placed him into the starting lineup against the Baltimore Orioles for that day. He finished the regular season with a .292 batting average in 82 at-bats. Though he was left off of the Yankees' postseason roster for the 2012 American League Championship Series, he was added to the roster when Jeter suffered a fractured ankle. In Game 3 of the 2012 ALCS, Núñez hit his first career postseason home run off of Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander. The Yankees lost the series to the Tigers in a 4-game sweep.
Heading into the 2013 season, Yankees' General Manager Brian Cashman said that if Núñez were to make the team, he would do so as a utility infielder, reversing the team's position. However, Núñez only played shortstop during spring training. Jeter began the season on the disabled list, and Núñez started at shortstop for the Yankees on Opening Day. Núñez was placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 12 after missing the previous week due to soreness in his left rib cage. He was then transferred to the 60-day disabled list due to a strained left oblique. He was activated from the disabled list on July 6 after missing 2 months. He ended the season with .a 260 batting average and 28 RBIs in 90 games played.
In spring training in 2014, Núñez competed with Zelous Wheeler, Yangervis Solarte, Dean Anna, and Scott Sizemore for a reserve infielder role with the Yankees. With reserve infielder Brendan Ryan starting the season on the disabled list, the Yankees chose Anna and Solarte over Núñez. To add Solarte to the roster, the Yankees designated Núñez for assignment.
With the hope of improving their offense, the Minnesota Twins acquired Núñez from the Yankees on April 7, 2014, in exchange for minor league pitcher Miguel Sulbaran. The Twins optioned him to the Rochester Red Wings of the International League. After batting 7-for-22 (.318) for Rochester, he was promoted to the Twins as the 26th man on their roster for a doubleheader on April 17, and was optioned back the next day. He finished the season with a .250 batting average in 72 games played with the Twins.
The Yankees viewed Núñez as a possible replacement at shortstop for Jeter. Though they were willing to trade Jesús Montero, their top hitting prospect, the Yankees considered Núñez untouchable in trade negotiations. Scouts consider Núñez's throwing arm to be strong, and compliment his ability to hit for average, hit for power, and baserunning ability. However, scouts feel he can get "lackadaisical in the field" and swings at too many pitches outside of the strike zone.
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