- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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Monday night could potentially be a glimpse into the future when it comes to Eduardo Nunez's role with the Yankees.
For the first time this season, and just the third time in his career, Nunez will be starting in the outfield for the Yankees as he mans left field. While the utility player is viewed as a future infielder, the crowded Yankees infield could push him to the outfield.
"We have him targeted as being an everyday shortstop one day. That's where we have him targeted. But hey, stranger things have happened because of opportunities, you never know what the possibilities are," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's athletic, he has a lot of speed and there's a lot of different things he can do so we're going to find out."
The Yankees had talked of playing Nunez in the outfield and with right fielder Nick Swisher and left fielder Brett Gardner sidelined with injuries. The manager said the team believes Nunez can play the outfield well and like how he's started the season with a .345 average.
Nunez last started in the outfield on Sept. 26, 2011 against Tampa Bay and his previous two starts were both in right field. He's been placed in the outfield on other occasions as a substitute and played there during spring training. Nunez did not have experience playing the outfield with Scranton Wilkes-Barre (AAA).
"I have to focus on every ball hit to me I have to catch," Nunez said before the Yankees faced the Orioles. "I don't want to try to do too much. I don't want a big mistake. I'm not afraid of mistakes, but I don't want to."
The utility man said he feels practice playing left field in practice, but has not played it enough during games to feel comfortable. He believes the difficult part will be on straight line drives that come at him. Nunez has struggled in his career with his glove work, becoming known as an error-prone infielder.
Girardi believes Nunez's combination of speed and a strong arm could help make up for inexperience as he can potentially limit player to singles by cutting the ball off. Nunez has received advice from Andruw Jones about playing left field and Gardner thinks Nunez will be fine roaming the outfield.
"Learn the corner and try to make sure you have a good idea of what the ball is going to do coming off that corner," Gardner said of his advice. "He's played out that before. He's a good athlete and it's left field, that's where they put people who can't play anywhere else."
When asked about having a potential future, Nunez said he just wants to play in the big leagues. He knows of the big names in the Yankees infield, and he said he has to make room for himself somewhere. He mentioned his utility role as one that allows him to move around to all the different positions.
If he were to move to the outfield, he said he would just need some more practice and believes he could be a good everyday outfielder with the requisite practice.
"I think so," Nunez said. "I hope so."