Gardner's absence tests Nunez's versatility

Gardner's absence tests Nunez's versatility

BOSTON -- With Brett Gardner sidelined, it is possible that Eduardo Nunez could play a key role in the Yankees' outfield defense, manager Joe Girardi said.

The club started veteran Raul Ibanez in front of the Green Monster in left field on Friday at Fenway Park, and Andruw Jones will likely play there on Saturday, but Girardi said that he has told Nunez to prepare for playing some outfield in the near future.

"It's possible," Girardi said. "We'll just have to see how guys are feeling. Without Gardy being here, the one guy that we probably have to pay the closest attention to is [Curtis] Granderson, because we don't necessarily have a true center fielder, besides Curtis. We're going to have to check with him as much as we can."

Girardi said that he instructed Nunez to begin taking fly balls in center field, but the manager did not rule out using Jones there as a backup, either. Jones won 10 Gold Glove Awards at the position but hasn't set foot in center field since 2010 with the White Sox.

"The concern for Andruw playing a lot of center field would be his knees," Girardi said.

Nunez committed a throwing error in the first inning of Thursday's 7-6 win over the Twins, opening the door for four unearned runs against Phil Hughes, but Girardi maintained confidence that Nunez will be able to help the Yankees in his current utility role.

"Our job is to continually improve him, and that's what we'll work on," Girardi said. "I have seen improvements. Now, you're going to say, 'Well, he's made two errors.' Yeah, but he hasn't compounded those errors. That's improvement, and our job is to clean up the rest of it."