Super-utility man Nunez succeeding in many different roles
MINNEAPOLIS — Eduardo Nunez has grown accustomed to playing wherever he’s asked and batting in any spot in the lineup.
He’s just happy to have found a home in Minnesota.
The Twins traded for Nunez in early April to bring him over from the New York Yankees. At the time, Nunez said he wasn’t sure what his role would be with Minnesota, which already had plenty of infielders.
"They had a lot of infield here," Nunez said. "I said, ‘OK. I do my job.’ I did it before with the Yankees. It’s not the first time I did it."
He’s since found out that he has many roles: left fielder, right fielder, third baseman, shortstop, designated hitter. And on Wednesday, for the second game in a row, Nunez’s new role was that of a leadoff batter.
"I don’t want to think too much about moving. I just want to be in the lineup, no matter where," Nunez said. "Helping the team to win is more important."
Nunez has done just that in his limited time with the Twins, including in Tuesday’s 10-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals. He collected three hits in that game, one of which was his third home run of the season. Nunez drove in a pair of runs and crossed home plate three times himself.
After a performance like that, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had no problem putting Nunez back in the leadoff spot for Wednesday’s series finale against the Royals.
"I don’t know if he’s a prototype (leadoff hitter) and I don’t know how many times he’s done that in his career. He’s an aggressive hitter," Gardenhire said. "He has a pretty good plan at the plate, and he can run a little bit. He came out of the chute swinging good."
In order to acquire Nunez from the Yankees, Minnesota had to send minor league pitcher Miguel Sulbaran to New York. So far, the Twins feel pretty happy with the deal they got. Entering Wednesday, Nunez was batting .321 with three homers and 14 RBI in just 27 games. Gardenhire has been able to plug the versatile Nunez into a number of different spots on the field — and a variety of spots in the lineup.
"We had a lot of good reports on him as far as what kind of talent he had," said Twins general manager Terry Ryan. "A number of people have seen him over the last year or two. When you have pretty good reports from more than just one scout, consequently, that’s when you move. ‘This just isn’t one person that likes him.’ A host of people liked him enough where we should pursue him."
Nunez hasn’t quite found a spot as an everyday player for the Twins, but rather as somewhat of a super-utility player. When Minnesota had several injuries in the outfield, Gardenhire had no problem playing Nunez in either corner outfield spot. With shortstop Danny Santana currently on the disabled list, Nunez is getting his chance at short.
His last two games were Nunez’s first games back since spending time on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Before he was hurt, Nunez was one of Minnesota’s better hitters. He’s picked up right where he left off, collecting five hits and three RBI in his first two games back.
"When he was out, we missed him. We weren’t scoring," Ryan said. "You saw (Tuesday) he got us going and hit a ball over the fence. It’s tough to complain much about what he’s brought. He’s a pretty good athlete."
Nunez spent his first four seasons in the majors with the Yankees, batting .267 with 10 homers and 76 RBI in 270 games. After playing in 112 games in 2011, he played in a combined 128 games over the next two seasons.
While it remains to be seen if Nunez can be an everyday player for Minnesota, he’s proving to be a valuable acquisition for the Twins.
"We always liked him," Gardenhire said. "We always thought he was a really good infielder. We’re glad to have him. We’re happy we finally got an opportunity to get him over here. He’s exactly what we thought. The kid can swing it. He can do some things. He can play around the field. A nice player."
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