Former Yankee Eduardo Nuñez said Friday afternoon that he has matured enough to learn from his mistakes. That night’s game gave him an unwanted opportunity to do just that, even if he didn’t seem so sure that he had made one.
After the Red Sox loaded the bases with none out in the ninth on three walks against Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Benintendi delivered a sacrifice fly to leftfield to get them within a run, but Nuñez was thrown out at third base on the play for the second out. That helped the Yankees hang on for a 5-4 win at the Stadium.
The speedy Nuñez hoped to get to third with one out, but after catching Benintendi’s fly ball just in front of the warning track in leftfield, former Twins teammate Aaron Hicks made a strong throw to Todd Frazier to nail him.
“If it happened tomorrow, I would take the chance tomorrow again,” Nuñez said. “That’s how we play the game.”
Said Red Sox manager John Farrell, “Eduardo’s such a good baserunner, with the speed that he has. If he doesn’t feel like he’s got a chance to get there, he’s probably not going.”
Boston is 9-3 since acquiring the versatile infielder, who never found a permanent home with the Yankees. Before going 1-for-4 with a walk Friday night, Nuñez had a .420/.442/.780 slash line, four home runs, six doubles and 12 RBIs in 11 games with the Red Sox. He had played third base, shortstop and second base.
“He’s been a huge boost to our offense,” Farrell said before the game. “He’s injected some energy.”
Nuñez, 30, displayed offensive talent, speed and a strong arm as a Yankee from 2010-13 but was inconsistent defensively and never could nail down a position.
“If you don’t have the opportunity to play every day, how are you going to improve?” he said. “That’s the only way. You’re never going to have 10 hits in one night. You have to play every day.”
That changed not long after the Yankees dealt him to the Twins in April 2014. He played 72 games in each of his first two seasons with Minnesota before playing 141 games for the Twins and Giants — who acquired him at the deadline last year — and making the All-Star Game in 2016. Nuñez wound up with a .288/.325/.432 slash line, 16 home runs, 67 RBIs and 40 stolen bases last year.
He said playing with Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira, all Gold Glove winners, was daunting and added to the pressure of playing unfamiliar positions in New York after coming up as a shortstop. He said Twins manager Paul Molitor helped calm his nerves by telling him, “I don’t care how many errors [you make], just play hard.”
A free agent after this season, Nuñez joked with reporters about surprises in the game of baseball, including how he learned about his trade to the Red Sox in the fifth inning of a game between the Giants and Pirates.
“The manager [Bruce Bochy], he didn’t even know where I was going,” Nuñez said. “He asked me, he was like, ‘Do you know where you’re traded?’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’
“The teammates don’t even know where I’m going. They want to hug me, but it’s like, ‘I don’t know where you’re going, bro!’ ”
He was going from the last-place Giants to a Boston team that could win the AL East title. Now he’s a key contributor. Quite a change for a player who once lacked a clear future.
Said Nuñez: “You never know how you’re going to start your career, and you never know how you’re going to finish your career.”