HOUSTON - Eduardo Nuñez figured the Yankees had had enough of him, so he asked for his release and got it.
The Yankees, needing to make a move on their 40-man roster to get Yangervis Solarte on it, designated Nuñez for assignment before Tuesday night's season opener, ending the 26-year-old's career with the club.
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Nuñez, signed by the team as an amateur free agent in 2004, was disappointed by the Yankees' decision to award the final infield spot, on the last day of spring training, to Solarte and told the club he'd like a fresh start somewhere else. That in itself is not unusual for a player to do and it likely influenced general manager Brian Cashman's decision.
The Yankees have 10 days to either trade or release Nuñez, who will have interested parties. The Cubs, in need of infield help, could be interested, as could the Blue Jays, who need help at second and, after the Opening Day injury to Jose Reyes, short.
A source said the Astros, who would get the first crack at Nuñez if a trade isn't worked out, could be an option, as well.
"I think it's best for right now to give him a fresh start and we'll see where that takes him," Cashman said.
Nuñez, who often struggled in the field, hit .265 with a .280 on-base percentage this spring but lost his spot, Cashman said, more because of what Solarte did, hitting .429 with a team-best nine RBIs. With Brian Roberts' recent injury history, the Yankees felt Solarte, a better second baseman, was a better option than Nuñez.
"It's a consistency issue," Cashman said. "But that's not why he's off [the roster] as much as what we saw from these other guys. We came to spring training fully expecting Eduardo Nuñez to be one of our options at the big-league level but we had other guys reveal [themselves]."
Impressed with Tanaka
Cashman said Masahiro Tanaka’s adjustment to the Yankees has been similar to another Japanese star’s in 2003.
“A lot of reminders about how [Hideki] Matsui came in and it made it feel like he had been here for a long time already,” Cashman said. “Tanaka has allowed spring training to be a seamless transition for him. Now we have the regular season to deal with.”
Tanaka makes his big-league debut Friday night against the Blue Jays in Toronto.
As expected, the Yankees put SS Brendan Ryan (pinched nerve in back) on the disabled list to start the season and the infielder is progressing slowly. “I don’t think he’s really doing many baseball activities yet,” Joe Girardi said . . . Nolan Ryan threw the ceremonial first pitch to another former Astro, and Kings Park High School graduate, Craig Biggio.