It wasn’t always fun watching Eduardo Nunez play defense last season and this year he wasted no time reminding us why. After he muffed a play during his first inning of work against the Rays, he continued his poor defense against the Orioles as he miss played a ball that was ruled a single and gave everyone a scare circling around a pop-up in the 9th inning Monday night.
The Yankees continue to stick with Nunez in the field though because of his potential at the plate and the hope that his strong athleticism eventually overcome his inability to field routine grounders. For his part, Nunez knows he has a lot to improve defensively and he worked hard last offseason to improve.
“He helped me a thousand percent, seriously,” Nunez told Chad Jennings of the Journal News of the coach he hired in the offseason to help him with his defense. “So confident. My throw is so quiet, a quality throw. … I have to prove, show (Joe Girardi) I can play defense too. I don’t want him to take me out in the bottom of the eighth, bottom of the seventh, (saying) ‘Hey Nuney, you can’t play defense.’”
Fans have mostly lost patience with Nunez at this point, but Girardi will continue to use him in hopes that he’ll eventually improve. Derek Jeter has never been especially strong defensively and as he continues to age it might not be too long until he becomes a clear liability out there himself.
The thing is, Jeter’s biggest problem is range, which often isn’t so obvious while Nunez has trouble with his hands, leading to errors that are all too obvious. At some point though, if it hasn’t happened already, Nunez’s superior range will make up for his lack of hands as he’ll get to more balls that Jeter wouldn’t even get a chance to field.
There is no guarantee that will happen and eventually Nunez will have to prove he can play defense.