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Nunez proves health, inks 1-year deal with Sox

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The reunion between Eduardo Nunez and the Red Sox took patience from both sides, and ultimately a uniquely exhaustive workout that the super-utility man went through before the signing could become official.

After Nunez completed a physical on Friday morning, the Red Sox took him to a back field of their Spring Training complex in the hot sun that afternoon to make sure his right knee was sound. Nunez suffered a PCL strain in that knee on Sept. 9, then re-injured himself almost immediately in comebacks on Sept. 25 and Oct. 5.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The reunion between Eduardo Nunez and the Red Sox took patience from both sides, and ultimately a uniquely exhaustive workout that the super-utility man went through before the signing could become official.

After Nunez completed a physical on Friday morning, the Red Sox took him to a back field of their Spring Training complex in the hot sun that afternoon to make sure his right knee was sound. Nunez suffered a PCL strain in that knee on Sept. 9, then re-injured himself almost immediately in comebacks on Sept. 25 and Oct. 5.

And there was still one more test after the workout. The Red Sox made sure Nunez had no swelling in his knee on Saturday. He cleared that hurdle also, and on Sunday, Boston and Nunez formalized a one-year agreement for $4 million that includes a player option for 2019 (also $4 million) and a buyout of $2 million.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Was Friday's workout the hardest anyone has ever put Nunez through?

"A hundred percent, yes. They almost killed me," quipped Nunez. "They gave me a lot of stealing bases, running, hitting, ground balls, diving, everything, and I passed it."

In truth, Nunez was thrilled to be able to prove to both the Red Sox and himself that he's healthy again. The timing of his injury -- coming right before the Red Sox got to the postseason and just prior to his free agency -- was not ideal.

But it all worked out in the end.

"I told my agent before I was a free agent that I would love to come back," Nunez said. "The time I was here last year was amazing. There was a lot of energy, and I love to win. I think that's the best thing, my first choice by far. The situation was about my knee, they wanted to make sure I'm healthy. I think I proved it this week, and now I'm back. Now hopefully everybody is healthy, myself, and other guys, too, and we can look to win the World Series this year."

The immediate value of Nunez to the Red Sox is that he can help fill in at second base for Dustin Pedroia, who is expected to miss the early portion of the regular season as he recovers from surgery on his left knee.

Video: Nunez returns to Red Sox after signing deal

But the main value is that Nunez is the rare utility player who has the bat to be in the lineup on a full-time basis.

"Instead of having nine starters, you have 10 now," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "He's a versatile and athletic player. From afar, I saw what he did last year with this team offensively. He impacted the game, he was driving the ball, he was running. He's a guy that will help us move people around."

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski noted that the Red Sox were interested in bringing Nunez back independent of Pedroia's situation.

"We're thrilled to have him signed," Dombrowski said. "He did a great job for us last year. It's been a long process basically because we've been concerned about his knee. We feel comfortable that he's 100 percent ready to go, and we're absolutely thrilled that he's with us because he's a good player."

Nunez was traded from the Giants to the Red Sox on July 25, and he thrived on arrival, slashing .321/.353/.539 with eight homers and 27 RBIs.

The only thing that could stop him was the right knee, which gave out for the last time in the first inning in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Astros, when he tried to beat out a grounder.

"That was a bad situation for me and for the team," Nunez said. "Nobody expected that. Nobody wanted that, I was injured that bad. But that's what it is. Now I'm healthy, and I'm looking forward to turning the page."

Video: Zinkie on fantasy impact of Nunez's return to Red Sox

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
With multi-position eligibility and the potential to rank among the leading basestealers when working in a regular role, Nunez should be an asset in shallow leagues until Pedroia returns from his expected season-opening stint on the disabled list. However, Nunez's value may be relegated to deep mixed formats if the Red Sox shift him to a utility role upon Pedroia's return. Overall, owners should expect a double-digit homer total, 20-25 steals and a batting average near .300 from Nunez this year.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Eduardo Nunez