Maturity Has Elevated Nunez In Yankees' Eyes

NEW YORK—Shortstop Eduardo Nunez was closing the gap between himself and the Yankees' premium prospects with a fast start at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Always regarded as a tools player who needed to mature and understand the nuances of the game better, the 22-year-old Nunez used April to open a lot of eyes in the organization.

"A light went on," general manager Brian Cashman said of the native of the Dominican Republic who signed in 2004. He was hitting .344/.408/.441 with a homer and six doubles in his first 93 at-bats.

A shortstop who has played second and third base, Nunez's future could entail a switch to the outfield or perhaps a trade to another organization. New York expects to have its infield sewn up through at least 2013 with Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

Nunez has an above-average arm, but could he switch to the outfield?

"I think he could," Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "I feel like a shortstop can play anywhere except maybe catcher."

Girardi and bench coach Rob Thomson saw plenty of Nunez the past two years in big league camp. "He can run and throw," Thomson said. "Athletically, he has all the tools."

Scouts saw signs of improvement as a hitter last season when Nunez batted .322/.349/.433 in his second year with Double-A Trenton.

"He is a lot more mature as a hitter," pro scouting director Billy Eppler said. "He is using the whole field and is more selective at the plate. Now he is waiting for a pitch to impact. That's the reason he has steadily climbed in the order."

His breakout season wasn't a shock to outfielder Brett Gardner.

"The year I was drafted, 2005, I went to (short-season) Staten Island and the team was made up of 80 to 90 percent college players," Gardner said. "Hitting behind me and batting .325? Nunez. He was 18. I said, 'Oh my gosh.'

"In 2006, I made the jump from (short-season) to High-A and he was there, too."


• Trenton righthander Christian Garcia had season-ending Tommy John surgery—his second such procedure—in late April and his once-promising career was in jeopardy.

• Just when it appeared things could not get worse for high Class A Tampa's Andrew Brackman, the 6-foot-10 righthander went on the disabled list with tendinitis in his pitching hand. He began the year at 0-2, 10.50, having allowed 21 hits in 12 innings to go with seven strikeouts and one walk.