Improved defense has Nunez ready to play shortstop

Improved defense has Nunez ready to play shortstop

TAMPA, Fla. -- With Derek Jeter expected to miss his first Opening Day since 2001, the Yankees are ready to entrust Eduardo Nunez with a starting role at shortstop until the captain is able to return.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he has been pleased with what he has seen from Nunez, who went 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI triple in New York's 7-6 win over the Rays on Sunday.

"He's worked very hard on his defense, he's swung the bat well, he's run the bases well," Girardi said. "He provides a speed option that we really didn't have last year a whole lot. You get him and Gardy [Brett Gardner] in the lineup, and it could create some problems."

Nunez joked this week that he has not been throwing as many balls in the stands behind first base this spring, but that has not been by coincidence.

Nunez has been working with infield coach Mick Kelleher on his arm action, something he showed off on a fourth-inning play Sunday. Nunez whirled behind second base on Shelley Duncan's grounder up the middle, throwing accurately on a bounce to first baseman Juan Rivera, who did not scoop the infield hit.

"He's bouncing it there on purpose," Girardi said. "It's on the money, and it's a good throw. It does show you what kind of progress he's made. That's one of the things he's worked on. He went and worked with Mick on that play."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.