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Thursday, January 10, 2013
Cashman: Nunez a utility player again

By Andrew Marchand

On Day 3 of our Derek Jeter series, we are looking at who possibly could replace him. Eduardo Nunez is someone the Yankees have projected as an everyday major league shortstop. To read the first two parts of the Jeter series, click here for Wally Matthews' column on Jeter's prospects for next season and here for my piece on the future contract dilemma that awaits him.

In a reversal from his previous stance, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said if Eduardo Nunez is going to be a Yankee this season, it will be as a utility player.

Eduardo Nunez, Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter likely won't be yielding to Eduardo Nunez any time soon.
“If he is at the big-league level, he is going to have to," Cashman told ESPNNewYork.com. "We have everyday guys at other positions. If he makes our club, it will be at a utility role.”

Last May, the Yankees stripped Nunez of everything but his shortstop glove. Although they loved the electricity he brought to the game, they could no longer deal with watching Nunez do his NunEEEEEEEE routine. So Cashman and Joe Girardi said that Nunez would only play short.

Still, with Derek Jeter coming off a serious ankle injury, Nunez may prove very important this season. He will be asked to spell Jeter and possibly play some second, third and maybe even a very tiny dash of emergency outfield. Plus, as of right now, it is quite possible he could DH some. Nunez's spring training will determine his role.

“He could be a starting shortstop at Triple-A,” Cashman said. “He could be helping us on the big-league level. It remains to be seen how our team shakes out and how he looks in the spring.”

Nunez, still just 25, may one day take over for Jeter. The fan base is understandably wary of Nunez's glove. The organization puts on a brave public face, but the Yankees must have concerns over Nunez's defense. Whether or not he can make the routine plays in the field, he brings a speed and electricity that could translate into an everyday player one day.

Nunez ended last year as basically the only Yankee who could hit against Detroit, as he nailed a solo homer in Game 3 of the ALCS in a near ninth-inning rally. He finished the season hitting .292 in 89 at-bats. He has athleticism and a good attitude. He doesn't play smart, but is very intelligent off the field. The Yankees still see him in the equation at short.

“At an everyday basis, he is a shortstop,” Cashman said. “If not, you could play him anywhere, except for catcher and first.”

With Jeter coming off his broken ankle, Nunez will likely play even more at short, if he makes the team. If he were to beat out Jayson Nix or if the Yankees take both north, he could get a nice amount of time to make a more positive impression.

QUESTION: Do you have faith in Nunez?