Nunez feels comfortable holding down shortstop
NEW YORK -- Eduardo Nunez's cell phone buzzes every so often with a text message from Derek Jeter, the continuation of a relationship that filled many Florida afternoons this spring.
Nunez has said that no one can completely replace Jeter, but the captain has essentially been lecturing his fill-in on the duties of playing shortstop for the Yankees in his extended absence.
"All the time. Everything," Nunez said. "Inside the field, how to prepare, how to compete every day, to play for wins -- not play just for yourself. ... I thank him for everything. Just knowing how to play and how to act outside the field."
With Thursday's announcement that Jeter has suffered a small fracture in his surgically repaired left ankle and will be out of action until after the All-Star break, Nunez's time as the Yanks' shortstop seems to have received an extension.
General manager Brian Cashman said on Thursday that the team will stick with Nunez and utilityman Jayson Nix at shortstop, in part because both players have performed well and also because replacements are difficult to find at this time of the season.
"We're going to stay as we are," Cashman said. "Those guys have done a nice job. They've earned the right, and regardless, this time of year is certainly going to be a factor in anything that happens."
The Yankees may not have planned on having Nunez as their everyday shortstop this season, but they did prepare by playing him regularly at shortstop last year at Triple-A after an experiment using him at other positions.
Infield coach Mick Kelleher also worked extensively on Nunez's throwing this spring to cut down on errors, suggesting that Nunez shorten his arm action. Kelleher would prefer that Nunez bounce a throw to first base than send it into the seats.
"I feel more comfortable," Nunez said. "I know I'm going to be out there every day in one position. If I make an error, I know what I have to do for the next day."
Nunez said that Jeter has been "proud" of how Nunez has done filling in early this season, and while Nunez said that he could play the whole season at shortstop if needed, he also believes Jeter will be able to reclaim his position.
"I hope he comes back this year," Nunez said. "I hope he comes back healthy, but I prepare myself to play every day all year long."