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Girardi: Eduardo Nunez has to earn spot

02/19/2013 3:18 PM ET
By Jon Lane

Eduardo Nunez (left) chats with Derek Jeter during a Spring Training workout in Tampa, Fla.(AP)
The New York Yankees have openings for a right-handed designated hitter and reserve infielder. That means Eduardo Nunez is a lock to break camp and head north with the team for the April 1 opener against the Boston Red Sox, right?

Not so fast, Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters at the conclusion of Tuesday's workouts at George Steinbrenner Field. Nunez has shown flashes of Major League ability at the plate, but fielding his position, whether it be shortstop, third base or left field, has been a struggle. That means if Nunez is to make the Yankees, he'll have to fight for his spot and his share of at-bats.

"That's the bottom line. He has to earn it," Girardi said. "We've got to toy with some different options, but we liked what he did at the end of last year. We know he provides a lot of excitement. Our plans are probably to keep him at short for the most part, we did talk about that, but he does have to earn it. It's just consistency in your play; offensively, defensively, on the bases. It's just consistency. The tools are there."

Nunez made the Yankees as a utility infielder last season. He batted .294 in his first 20 games, but also committed four errors in 58 chances and was demoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after making two in a May 10 game against the Tampa Bay Rays. The organization views Nunez as a future shortstop, but with Derek Jeter remaining entrenched in the position, Nunez's best chance is to prove his merit as a hitter. Travis Hafner will DH from the left side and if Nunez struggles this spring, third baseman Kevin Youkilis will see more time at the spot. The Yankees are also evaluating right-handed hitting outfielders Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz to see if they can provide pop off the bench and against left-handers.

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC

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