Nunez hoping to take A-Rod's place

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
8:43
PM ET
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- With Alex Rodriguez officially out next season, the Yankees have an opening at the hot corner. Utility infielder Eduardo Nunez sees this as his chance to finally become an every-day starter.

"I think it's a great opportunity to me. Not going to say I feel good because something happened to one guy, but there's an opportunity to prove you can play every day," Nunez said at the Connecticut Sports Foundation's annual celebrity dinner and memorabilia auction at Mohegan Sun. "I think it's good for me this year to prove I can play."

Nunez has had plenty of chances to show what he can do but hasn't proven himself worthy yet. Last season, with Derek Jeter and Rodriguez missing most of the season, Nunez battled injuries himself. He hit just .260 with three home runs and 28 RBIs in 90 games.

Heading into spring training this year, Nunez isn't even a lock to make the roster. The Yankees brought in Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson, re-signed Brendan Ryan and have Mark Teixeira and Jeter slated to start at first base and shortstop, respectively.

Nunez isn't concerned about his status. "Every year I try to do the same thing. I don't have control about the way the decisions are made," Nunez said. "The only control [I have] is how I play."

Ryan, who signed a two-year deal, is not sure where he'll spend most of his time. He could challenge for the openings at second and third base, or the Yankees could use him primarily to spell Jeter at shortstop. Jeter played just 17 games last season due to recurring ankle issues.

A defensive whiz, Ryan is focused on improving offensively. He hit .197 with the Yankees and Seattle Mariners last season and .194 the season before in Seattle. He's been working with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long during the offseason.

"I feel good about our relationship and what we're trying to do going forward. Hitting under .200 is ridiculous. There's no reason for that," Ryan said. "Some of that is confidence, but I feel good about the direction we're going. I think if I'm hitting it's only going to provide more opportunities for me."

Phelps wants a spot: The Yankees have one spot left in their starting rotation alongside CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Masahiro Tanaka. David Phelps wants to join that quartet.

Phelps' biggest competition for the job is likely to be Michael Pineda.

"The biggest thing for me was just, I'm healthy. I feel like as long as I go out and show them what I'm capable of, I think I'll be all right. I obviously want to start," Phelps said. "It's what I've done my whole baseball career up and until the last two [seasons], where I was pitching out of the bullpen a little bit. It's what I love doing. I love going into the game knowing it's my game from the start. I feel like I'm capable of doing it and definitely showed glimpses of it. Had a few bumps in the road last year."

Matt Ehalt

ESPN New York contributor

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
13 2.77 141 136
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146