Sweeny: Yankees Notes From Fenway
By Sweeny Murti
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Some notes, nuggets, and thoughts from Boston…
*The Red Sox 100th anniversary of Fenway Park celebration was just right. Respect to the past with a nod to the recent heroes. The World Series champs from 2004 and 2007 will get big rounds of applause here for a long time. And that’s the way it should be.
As we’ve seen in New York, the people in the stands remember the recent stars more fondly because that’s who they saw play. Same goes in Boston. They revere Yaz, but most are thankful they saw Pedro and Manny bring home a trophy.
*Curtis Granderson slugged 3 home runs the other night. He hit 41 a year ago, is off to another great start, but still doesn’t consider himself a power hitter. I asked him what would change his mind and he told me when opposing outfielders take a few steps back when he steps up—just as he does for guys like Pujols or Ortiz—then he will think his reputation has changed. Until then, he is content with being a hitter who happens to hit home runs.
*Eduardo Nunez in the infield seems not to be working. The errors have continued, but Joe Girardi has preached faith and confidence in the youngster’s ability and thinks he’s improved because he hasn’t let the problems compound as he did last year.
However, Nunez has gone from a nervous rookie last year to a defensive liability this year. He has some skills with the bat and that’s why the Yankees want to get him into the lineup as much as they can. But now might be the time to try something different.
I watched Nunez doing outfield drills in spring training and asked some of the coaches what they thought of his ability to play the outfield and they all agreed that he be a pretty good one. He has speed to chase down balls in the gap and a cannon for an arm.
Crazy thought—if the Yankees let Nick Swisher walk via free agency after this year and don’t go look for a replacement, could Eduardo Nunez be the everyday right fielder? He doesn’t project to hit for as much power as most corner outfielders, but with power coming from second base and center field the Yankees can probably afford that.
It’s not that crazy an idea, especially if Nunez provides the offensive punch the Yankees think he will. He likely wouldn’t be worse than an average major league outfielder.
While Brett Gardner is hurt, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to throw Nunez in left field and see how he does. He certainly couldn’t hurt the Yankees any worse out there and could provide an answer to what will become a significant off-season question.
*If you got tired of hearing about the shift when the Yankees played the Rays, then you better turn the sound down from now on. After Joe Girardi employed infield shifts against half the Twins lineup, both righties and lefties, he told me that would become a more regular part of their defensive strategy. The data gathered these days provides greater amounts — and more accurate — spray chart information, and that info is being put to use.
Girardi said it wasn’t simply a reaction to seeing how well it worked against them. The heaps of new data justify the moves and he isn’t the only one who thinks so. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire also told me his team sees it more and uses it more than before. He also said it’s the way the game is going, and it isn’t going back.
The infield shift used to be a gimmick defense thrown at a handful of players around the league. Now it is something you could see almost every night.
*Derek Jeter passed his boyhood idol, Dave Winfield, on the all-time hits list on Friday. How many players can ever say they did that? Jeter said he was grateful to get to know Winfield since coming up as a Yankee, and was glad to see that his idealized version lived up to the real thing. Jeter is sure to pass more great names along the way, but this one meant a lot to him.
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