Buried in the Yankees’ embarrassing 9-1 loss to the lowly Astros on Monday night was a glimpse of what could turn out to be a bright spot for the organization. Left-hander Vidal Nuno took the mound to start the seventh inning, making his MLB debut, and worked three shutout innings to finish the game, allowing four hits, no walks and striking out two.
He threw 38 pitches, 28 for strikes, and threw a first-pitch strike to eight of the 13 batters he faced.
A starter in the minors, Nuno has four pitches – fastball, curveball, slider and change – which he used to great success throughout the Yankees’ system. Called up after Ivan Nova’s injury, Nuno had been 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He struck out 26 and walked two in 23.1 innings. During five minor league seasons, Nuno, 25, was 32-18 with a 2.85 ERA.
But all of his success comes with a note of caution. Nuno isn’t on any top-prospect list for the Yankees and wasn’t profiled in the 2013 Minor League Baseball Analyst. Part of that could be because he’s not a hard-thrower. He cracked 90 mph just once during his Monday debut, with his fastball falling mainly between 85-89 mph. He complements that with a mid-70 mph curve and low-80s change and slider.
Each of the four hits he allowed Monday came on off-speed pitches, two on curveballs and one each on a slider and change. However, his two strikeouts – one swinging, one called – both came on sliders.
Nuno was named the James P. Dawson award winner by the Yankees as the rookie with an outstanding performance during spring training. Now he'll try to continue that success at the MLB level.