TRENTON – When Eduardo Nunez made
his major league debut in 2010, he had just 17 games of experience at third
base over six seasons in the minors. He’d also played just 19 times at second
base and had no outfield experience.
So when Nunez, already a shaky
defender, finally reached the show as a utilityman helping fill in when needed
for Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, he was ill-equipped to handle positions
other than his familiar shortstop.
“Once you get to Double-A, we
just like to make guys a little more versatile. You have a guy like
Nunez, where he was a shortstop all the way through the minor leagues, and now
they need a third baseman in the big leagues two years ago. It was kind of like
a crash course for him,” said Torre Tyson, the Yankees roving defensive
coordinator. “We don’t want that to happen again.
We want to make sure
everybody down here that has the offensive capability to play in the big
leagues is not going to hurt the New York Yankees at another position.”
Now, with Rodriguez out for up to
two months with a broken hand and the brittle Eric Chavez in line to fill the
gap, the Yankees are doing their due diligence to make sure they have better
options waiting down on the farm.
David Adams, easily their best
infield prospect at the upper levels this summer, began taking grounders at
third on Thursday. He’s likely to make his first start at the position since
2009 in one of the two games on Saturday.
Tyson, who managed Adams with
Charleston in 2009 when he last started at third, has been overseeing Adams’ preliminary
work at the hot corner. He noted that the biggest transition for his former
charge will involve an adjustment in reaction time.
“He was really good over there,”
Tyson said on Friday. “Right now, an adjustment going back and forth is just
angles. He’s got to kind of train himself that he’s got very few options as far
as the angles go because it’s more of a one- or two-step reactionary position
instead of second base, where you can make mistakes, not take good angles and
still get the guy at first.”
Of course, if you’ve watched
Trenton at all this season, it’s plain to see that the team is littered with
versatile players. Addison Maruszak has played all four infield positions this
year. Kevin Mahoney has manned third, second and first base. Jose Pirela has
sprinkled a few starts in left field in with his steady schedule of second and third
The difference between Adams and
the others on the roster, however, is the esteem in which the organization
holds him. He was their third-rounder in 2008 and, despite missing nearly two
years between 2010 and 2011, the team placed him on its 40-man roster over this
After a slow start, plus a
lengthy absence with a sore neck, Adams has rewarded the organization’s
patience. Currently riding a 13-game hitting streak, he’s hitting
.320/.388/.438 with 14 doubles and four longballs. Even more impressively, his
splits against lefties and righties are minimal. The right-handed Adams hits
.305 against right-handers and .353 against southpaws.
Despite those gaudy numbers,
Adams doesn’t appear satisfied with his performance. He admits that he’s been
getting away with mistakes that won’t go unchecked at the upper levels.
“It’s getting better. I still
think there are kinks that I need to work out,” he said. “I think all of us
would agree. There’s room to improve. There’s always room to improve. I’m
getting results, but I look at it this way: I don’t think I would have the
results I’m having now at another level. I’ve gotten infield hits through the
six-hole, little rollover that guys at next level, they’re probably going to
make those plays.”
As players in the minor leagues,
everybody in the clubhouse is aware of what goes on in the majors. If someone
gets hurt, they know there’s an opening that will need to be filled somehow.
And while it’s light years away from a certainty that Adams will get a
big-league look while Rodriguez is on the shelf, the Yankees have learned from
the past that it pays to have someone in-house ready if the need arises.
“I want to play,” Adams said. “Anything
it takes to get me to the next level, I’m going to do it. So, if that’s why we’re
doing it, so be it. If not, it makes me a little more versatile.”
Although it was strongly rumored
on Thursday, the Yankees confirmed on Friday that Joba Chamberlain will start
in Trenton on Sunday. Chamberlain, who is coming back from both Tommy John
surgery and a dislocated ankle, pitched in High-A Tampa on Tuesday and
Wednesday and threw a bullpen for the Yankees’ coaching staff on Friday.
Chamberlain pitched eight games –
seven starts – for Trenton in 2007 before reaching the major leagues later than
year amid the now-infamous Joba Rules. With Trenton, Chamberlain, Baseball
America’s onetime No. 5 prospect, struck out 66 in 40 1/3 Double-A frames that
NOTES: Along with Tyson, Yankees
pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras and pro scout Gary Denbo were on hand on
Friday. … The Thunder activated reliever Ryan Flannery and infielder Walter
Ibarra from the disabled list on Friday and placed outfielder Neil Medchill on
the shelf with an injury to his left leg. He left the clubhouse on crutches
after Thursday’s rainout. Reliever Lee Hyde was promoted to Triple-A. He’ll
meet the team in Pawtucket. … Outfielder Abe Almonte, out since the end of June
with right hamstring issues, got two at-bats Friday in his first rehab game in
the Gulf Coast League.