Yanks trust Nunez's athleticism in left field

Yanks trust Nunez's athleticism in left field

Yanks trust Nunez's athleticism in left field
NEW YORK -- The Yankees believe that Eduardo Nunez is athletic enough to handle left field without much difficulty, and the utility man got his chance to prove it on Monday.

Nunez started in left field as the Yankees began a three-game series with the Orioles, making just his sixth appearance (third start) in the outfield as a Major League player.

"When we put him in games in Spring Training, nobody hit the ball to him," manager Joe Girardi said. "So maybe that'll happen tonight. As a shortstop, you're used to catching fly balls and going out and getting balls. We think he's going to do fine."

Nunez's only appearance as an outfielder this year wasn't really in the outfield. He played one-third of an inning on Opening Day as part of a five-man infield behind Mariano Rivera, though technically he was the Yankees' right fielder.

"If they need me to play one week or two weeks in left field, I'll do it," Nunez said, adding, "If they need me to catch, I'll do it."

Backup catcher Chris Stewart, who lockers next to Nunez, overheard the comment and chimed in: "Tomorrow."

Catching isn't exactly in the cards for Nunez, and the Yankees still believe that his future is in the infield despite a rash of errors to begin his big league career.

"We have him targeted as being an everyday shortstop someday," Girardi said. "He's athletic, he has a lot of speed and there's a lot of different things he can do. We're going to find out."

The Yankees may need Nunez to get through only the Orioles series as a capable outfielder, with Raul Ibanez filling in as the right fielder and Andruw Jones on the bench on Monday. Nick Swisher is out with a left hamstring strain, but Brett Gardner is expected to come back from the disabled list on Thursday.

"We've talked a little bit about playing the outfield, especially here in this park," Gardner said. "You just kind of learn the corner and have the idea of what the ball is going to do coming off that corner. He has played there before. He's a good athlete, and it's left field -- that's where they put people that can't play anywhere else. He'll be fine."