Newsday's new all-encompassing baseball blog on the Yankees, Mets, MLB and more from around the sport.
BloggersErik Boland Marc Carig Cody Derespina Nick Klopsis Mark La Monica David Lennon Casey Musarra Anthony Rieber
Leaving the infield not a simple transition
It's a common story for young infielders in the big leagues. Can't play your position? Move to left field.
A third baseman in the minors, Daniel Murphy hit his way onto the Mets in 2008. He had played a bit of first and second base, but that big league infield was pretty secure, with Carlos Delgado, Luis Castillo, Jose Reyes and David Wright. So the Mets made the decision to move him to left field. He stayed there for all of 2008 and part of 2009, never looking comfortable and often making fans feel the same when he went after a ball.
He was eventually shifted to first base. Then second and a bit of third. Finally, in 2012, he seems to have taken a firm hold of the second base job. After four seasons, he's back to the infield.
Eduardo Nunez was a hot-shot shortstop prospect when he was pressed into everyday action by the Yankees in 2012. Derek Jeter was sidelined with a right calf strain and Nunez was going to be his replacement. He hit well enough to not be a liability, but his fielding became an issue. It started as whispers of a young player who was learning the big league game. It developed into people missing Derek Jeter's fielding “prowess.” It ended with outright calls for his demotion.
Nunez made 20 errors in 2011 in just 90 games (72 starts) at shortstop and third base. He made four errors in 2012 before he was sent down for more seasoning. Before he was demoted, the Yankees tried him in left field. It didn't work out.
But the transition from infielder to corner outfielder is not quite as simple as some observers may think.
Former major leaguer Frank Catalanotto was forced to make the switch and, though he eventually developed into a good left fielder, it took time. He came up through the Tigers' system as a second baseman and was shocked at what he found during his first taste of the majors in 1997.
“I learned very quickly that I wasn't going to be a second baseman too long in the big leagues, because the game moved very quickly,” Catalanotto said before an appearance for his book “Heart and Hustle.”
“I remember the first time I tried to turn a double play, Tony Phillips put me out into left field. I mean he just clobbered me. And that's how it was. You had to get the ball and get rid of it. I just wasn't quick enough. I was capable. I could field a ground ball and throw it. But these big league runners were coming in and trying to hurt you and get you.”
Finally, while with the Rangers in 2001, Catanotto was moved to left field.
“I came to enjoy it,” he said. “But when I first went out there, I was like a fish out of water. It's difficult because I had never played the outfield before. And then to go out there and see the ball coming at you—it took a lot of practice. The best practice was during batting practice, just fielding balls off the bat. My first year or two I wasn't very good out there, and it took me awhile to be able to hold down the fort.
“But it's not as easy as people think.”