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Eduardo Nunez: I will prove people wrong

03/21/2013 10:08 AM ET
By Jon Lane

Derek Jeter's questionable status for Opening Day puts Eduardo Nunez front and center.(AP)
Eduardo Nunez is determined to prove a lot of people, namely those who cringe and hold their collective breath each time a ball is hit in his direction, completely wrong. For all the attention the New York Yankees have garnered about their injuries and age throughout Spring Training, Nunez is focused to show that youth can serve, and serve well.

"It's hard when you know you can do better than that, and you're not doing it," Nunez said. "I hear a lot of things. People blame you. 'You [stink].' 'You can't do this.' That's hard, but everything that I hear -- comments about myself -- they make me stronger. I tell myself, I work hard and I (will) prove them wrong. The people that talked about me bad, they're wrong."

Derek Jeter remained sidelined on Wednesday with stiffness in his surgically-repaired left ankle. Jeter, of course, downplayed the ailment and the Yankees announced Tuesday night that precautionary X-rays came back negative, and a precautionary MRI revealed mild inflammation of the ankle. The next day, general manager Brian Cashman told reporters it's "a possibility" Jeter could open the season on the disabled list and miss Opening Day on April 1.

Enter Nunez. It's now the time for the Yankees to find out what they have in Nunez once and for all. Maligned for his defense, Nunez has made enough of an effort to improve that aspect of his game to where he's not the Yankees' possible Opening Day shortstop just by default, all thanks to a wake-up call seven years in the making.

Back then, Nunez tried to shorten his arm action, but it didn't feel right so he scrapped that idea. As a result, his Major-League experience became the school of hard knocks.

"It's my arm action," Nunez told reporters on how the Yankees encouraged him to finally take such advice to simplify his motion from Joe Girardi, Derek Jeter and infield coach Mick Kelleher. "They got me to do that. That's why I'm excited. I don't throw too many balls in the stands anymore.

"Joe told me, 'Why don't you try this?' Mick said, 'Yeah, why not?' Jeet told me, 'Yeah, do this. I think it's going to work because you're too long with the ball in your hand.' OK, let me try. … I still am uncomfortable sometimes, but I know it's going to work."

With Jeter's immediate future uncertain -- it's more of time issue than the severity of the ankle stiffness -- the Yankees are counting on Nunez the shortstop to work. Even after Jeter is back at the position, he'll be getting his share of rest, which means Nunez will get his share of action.

"I think you saw some inconsistencies in (his throwing) last year," Girardi said. "That could've been (because) we moved him all over the place. We've been pretty adamant about keeping him at shortstop. We weren't exactly sure where Derek was going to be. Our belief was that he was still going to be back, but you have to protect yourself."

Despite making his third error of the spring at shortstop while filling in for Jeter on Wednesday, Nunez started a 6-4-3 double play on the next batter, and got a hit and drove in a run, in the Yankees' 4-0 win over the Boston Red Sox. He made it clear afterwards that he's not the next Derek Jeter -- "There will be nobody like Derek Jeter," Nunez said -- but he's the next Eduardo Nunez and one that time will show is new and improved.

"I'll do my best,' Nunez said.

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC

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