Monday, April 30, 2012
Nunez makes all the plays in left
One time, he slid. Another time, he fell down. He even ran softly into a wall.
For Eduardo Nunez, starting in left field for the first time in Monday's 2-1 win over the Orioles, it was an adventurous—but successful—night manning the outfield.
"I like it," Nunez said. "I feel very comfortable over there. A couple hard line drives that scared me, but it's fine."
While it might not have been the prettiest of performances, Nunez caught all five ball hit his way Monday. The utility man, who normally plays the infield, played in the outfield for just the sixth time in his young career.
"So much for not getting any balls," manager Joe Girardi said. "He was tested with some tough plays today and did an outstanding job."
As their outfield is ravaged with injuries, the Yankees need bodies for the outfield and the turned to Nunez Monday. Nunez was all smiles before the game, looking forward to the opportunity and not worrying about making mistakes.
The one type of play that worried him before the game was a line drive, and as luck would have it, the first play of the game was a line drive hit right at him that he snared. Two batters later, he made a more difficult play when he slid on his knees and caught the ball, sprawling forward onto his chest after he had the out.
"Two hard line drives in the first inning, I say 'wow, it's going to be a long night for me tonight,''' Nunez said. "A long night for me."
His toughest catch came in the third on a ball that was described as a knuckling ball. Running to his left, Nunez had to stop and reach to his right as the ball sliced, falling to his knee and landing on his back as he caught it backhanded just mere inches from the game. Television showed Yankees bench coach Tony Pena smiling after the out.
Nunez said that he told his teammates "my bad" after the play and teammate Andruw Jones jokingly told him to "stay humble." Jones and others were able to have some fun watching Nunez's adventures in left field, telling him he's going to be the new left fielder. Nunez also caught a ball in the second inning right in front of the left-field wall, softly running into it after, as well as a soft fly ball in the fifth.
"It's guys laughing because that's Nunie, he's a funny guy," Jones said. "Everything he does is funny. He talks funny. He runs funny. He swings funny. He catches the ball funny. Everything he does is funny. That's why everybody is laughing."
With a smile from ear to ear after the game, Nunez said he had no nerves as he played in left field for the second time. He seemed to appreciate that his teammates joked with him about it, and how Girardi and others told him before the game to go out there and enjoy himself.
"I want to have fun," Nunez said. "I want to catch everything they give me and I don't want to try to do too much. I want to be simple and I think that's what I do."
While he certainly won't make any highlight reels for his catches, it was an entertaining night for Nunez which saw him snag each ball hit his way in left field. Catchers Russell Martin's description of Nunez's sliding catch in the first inning summed up Nunez's night in left perfectly.
Said Martin: "It didn't look nice but he made the play."