Saturday, July 6, 2013

Nunez returns to Yankees lineup and that’s a plus for the infield

By Rich Mancuso

BRONX, NEW YORK, JULY 6- The New York Yankees have been waiting for one of their injured starting infielders to come off the disabled list and make an impact. Saturday afternoon, Eduardo Nunez came off the 60-day list and started at shortstop for the first time since early May.

Nunez was off to a slow start, then a strain to his left side became too painful and possibly a reason why his average stood at .00 with four runs batted in. The Yankees have been without Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, and most of their infield has been on the disabled list the first half of the season.

Jeter and Rodriguez continue their rehab assignments and are expected back in the lineup sometime after the all-star break. Rodriguez is targeted for the end of the month and Jeter, assuming there are no more issues with his left ankle that required surgery, could return sooner.

For now, manager Joe Girardi was more than happy to welcome back Nunez. He batted eighth in the lineup and had the game deciding hit against Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles in the sixth inning as New York extended their winning streak to a season high six games.

“I was disappointed in myself for being hurt so long,” said Nunez who went 2-for-3, scored a run and drove in two. His first at bat off Tillman, he flied out to left that scored Zollo Almonte in what was a sacrifice double-play.

In the eighth inning, Nunez was involved in an inning ending double play ball with David Robertson on the mound and the Orioles down by a run. After the inning, Robertson came off the mound, clutched his fist and gave Nunez a high-five in the dugout.

Almonte was in the lineup the first time with Nunez, He said: “It feels good to have one of the regulars back in the lineup.”

“That’s the best comeback you can do,” added Nunez. “Help the team to win.” And he did not have many bats in his brief rehab assignment, three hits at Double-A Trenton, The Yankees said Nunez was ready and had a roster spot open when they placed pitcher David Phelps on the disabled list with a strain to his right forearm,

“He’s the guy that you’ve kind of touted as an everyday player for a while, has the ability to really contribute offensively, play good defensively, steal bases and do a lot of different things,” said Girardi.

Nunez could be in the lineup often as long as he stays healthy. Jayson Nix, another infielder who played short and third, was placed on the disabled list Wednesday with a right hamstring strain. So, the Yankees took a chance and hoped an unexpected early return of Nunez would pay dividends.

“For him, it’s getting him healthy and getting him out there,” added Girardi, Nunez arrived in the Bronx late Friday night after playing his last game at Trenton. He also said before he got hurt, there was a lot of work on his lower body with hitting Coach Kevin Long,

For now, the Yankees hope Nunez remains healthy. He is that valuable player also that can come off the bench in the late innings when needed.

“I feel excited,” said Nunez. “I feel real good. Happy to do what I love to do.”

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