HOUSTON -- The Yankees once viewed Eduardo Nunez as an everyday big league player, and even as a possible successor to shortstop Derek Jeter. No more, as Tuesday's moves strongly suggest that the next chapter of Nunez's career will come in a new uniform.
The Yankees designated Nunez for assignment, clearing a space on their 40-man roster for infielder Yangervis Solarte. Nunez lost his spot on the big league roster this spring when he was outplayed by both Solarte and another rookie, Dean Anna.
New York will have 10 days to trade, release or attempt to outright Nunez to the Minor Leagues through waivers. Nunez had previously been optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and general manager Brian Cashman suggested that a change of scenery may benefit Nunez.
"Tough call, but he's the way I went; it's just a tough call," Cashman said. "We thought through a lot of other different permutations, but I think it's best for right now to give him a new, fresh start, and we'll see where that takes him. We're allotted 10 days to make an assignment of his contract, so stay tuned."
Nunez, who turns 27 in June, owns a career .267 average in 270 big league games with the Yankees. The organization once thought of Nunez so highly, Cashman refused to include him in a July 2010 trade package with the Mariners that would have brought left-hander Cliff Lee to the Bronx.
Jesus Montero and the Yanks' choice of Nunez or Ivan Nova would have gone to Seattle in that proposed deal; instead, Lee was traded to the Rangers as a half-season rental and helped them advance to the World Series before returning to the Phillies.
"[Nunez] possesses a great deal of talent, and you can dream on him -- and we have -- as a potential everyday shortstop in the big leagues," Cashman said. "All that talent is still there, and I think his versatility does provide for a great deal of choices as a player on a Major League roster. We'll see what develops in the next 10 days."
Cashman said that the Yankees entered Spring Training envisioning Nunez on their Opening Day roster, but Anna and Solarte both opened eyes during camp. Solarte has more experience at second and third base than Nunez, and manager Joe Girardi expects to use Anna as Jeter's backup until Brendan Ryan returns from the disabled list.
"At times, clubs get into roster crunches and sometimes you have to put a good player on waivers," Girardi said. "I've said all along, it's someone that we've been very fond of, a great guy in the clubhouse. It's tough, but we'll see what happens."