First Pitch: Where have you gone, Ramiro?

September, 30, 2012
9/30/12
5:00
AM ET
TORONTO -- Joe Girardi must have swallowed very hard when he made his out lineup card Saturday morning and wrote the name "NUNEZ" into the No. 8 slot in his batting order, alongside the letters "SS."

Because it took precisely half the game, and not a single ball hit Eduardo Nuñez's way, for the manager to decide he had seen enough.

Five-and-a-half innings into Saturday's game against the Blue Jays, Girardi thought it was better to play the rest of the game without a DH than with Nuñez at shortstop.

So he pulled him out and shifted 38-year-old Derek Jeter, who was supposed to be enjoying a respite from playing on the concrete-hard Rogers Centre turf, back out to shortstop.

"He becomes our main backup infielder now,” Girardi had said of Nuñez before the game, his hand having been forced by a hip-flexor injury to Jayson Nix that prompted the Yankees to send him back to New York for an MRI.

But you had the feeling Girardi wasn't crazy that option, and in halfway through what would become a dispiriting 3-2 loss, the manager confirmed it.

He would rather his team play short than have Nuñez play short.

Of all the flaws this team has shown throughout the season, from its age to its lack of speed to its puzzling inability to deliver timely hits, depth never seemed to be a concern.

Now, officially, it is.

Because if anything should befall Jeter or, worse, Robinson Cano, the Yankees are in deep, deep trouble. Nick Swisher has been a more than capable substitute for Mark Teixeira at first, and they survived 36 games without Alex Rodriguez by using an amalgam of Eric Chavez, Nix and Casey McGehee at third.

But Girardi has made it clear the Yankees consider Nuñez a shortstop, and a shortstop only, and made it even clearer on Saturday they don't consider him a very good one.

That means no more days off for Jeter or Cano the rest of the way. No DH days. No opportunities for a breather between now and the start of the postseason a week from yesterday.

Suddenly, Ramiro Peña -- smiling, pleasant, harmless little El Niño -- seems like a guy the Yankees would really like to have around these days.

Obviously, the Yankees need a healthy Jeter, Cano and A-Rod to have any chance to advance very far into October.

But the fact that a team with the resources of the Yankees farm system and a $200 million-plus payroll can't come up with anyone more reliable than Eduardo Nuñez to back those guys up with is not just alarming. It is mind-boggling.

Question of the Day: Do you think removing Nuñez from Saturday's day was a panic move by Girardi? Or do you agree with the manager that it's better to play with eight hitters in your lineup than with one Nunie in your infield? Let us know below.

Up now: My column on how yesterday's 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays probably caused Girardi to skip his dessert last night.

Coming soon: Another early one today, Phil Hughes (16-13, 4.10) facing RHP Henderson Alvarez (9-14, 4.91) in the series finale, and final road game of the regular season. Clubhouse opens at 9:30 a.m., first pitch is at 1:07 p.m. and in between we'll have lineups and whatever news comes out of Girardi's pregame media session, so check in often. And as always, thanks for reading.
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jacoby Ellsbury
BA HR RBI R
.293 8 47 47
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Teixeira 17
RBIM. Teixeira 48
RB. Gardner 59
OPSJ. Ellsbury .778
WM. Tanaka 12
ERAM. Tanaka 2.51
SOM. Tanaka 135