Minor League Report: Abraham Nunez
Veteran utilityman may have inside track on job with big club
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Infielder Abraham Nunez, the non-roster invitee with probably the best chance to crack Milwaukee's Opening Day roster, has an out clause written into his contract that allows him to elect free agency if he's not in the big leagues by June."We're not going to get there," he predicted. That kind of confidence will serve Nunez well this spring as he tries to win a backup infield spot behind veteran Craig Counsell. Nunez's plusses include the fact that he is is a switch-hitter -- a skill he honed after signing with Toronto in 1994 -- and the fact he feels equally comfortable defensively at second base, third base and shortstop. Nunez considered returning to Philadelphia -- where he spent the last two seasons -- and also received interest from Cincinnati, but opted for a Minor League deal with Milwaukee. "This is a team that really had the best shot to make the playoffs," Nunez said. "I think I can be very useful at different positions. They have a great core of young guys who play the right way, and I think this can be a good fit for me. I think I made the right choice." Nunez turns 32 on March 16 and has spent the last five full seasons in the Majors, but only once (in 2005 with St. Louis) has he topped 400 at-bats in a season. His defensive resume is split remarkably evenly: He's played 293 games at third base, 261 games at shortstop and 258 games at second in the Major Leagues. He played outfield a few times in a pinch, and he even pitched one-third of an inning in 2004 for Pittsburgh, recording the final out of the top of the ninth inning in a 12-1 loss to the Cubs. "I can fill in, I can play late in games, I can do a lot of things to help you win a ballgame," Nunez said. "Whatever it takes to win a ballgame, that's why I'm here." Nunez said he has not heard much from management about his chances to make the club. On paper, Nunez and Joe Dillon are the most likely candidates to serve alongside Counsell on the bench, if the Brewers elect to carry two extra outfielders. "I don't know, to be honest with you, if there's competition for that spot," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "Counsell is our utility guy and Nunez has been very, very, very impressive. Extremely impressive. "It all depends on the makeup of the club when it comes down to the end," Yost said. "Do we want to take an extra outfielder? Do we want to take an extra infielder? Who fits where?"
It also depends on whether the Brewers carry 12 or 13 pitchers, a decision Yost said is nowhere near made.If he is assigned to the Minors, Nunez would be valuable "knowing that we have a player that is available to step up and step in, in case something happens," Yost said. "That's really, really good insurance if he doesn't make the team." Jitters: It has not been a great week for some of the young arms getting an opportunity in big league games. On Monday against the Padres, Erasmo Ramirez, Robert Hinton, Steve Hammond and Josh Wahpepah combined to surrender 10 runs on seven hits and nine walks in 2 2/3 innings. The Brewers lost, 10-4, in three hours and 19 minutes. Yost ran out of coffee in the dugout. "It was all their first outings," Yost said. "They're all wanting to impress, and they're overthrowing. They're not pitching; they're just kind of firing it in there. "They'll be OK next time." Injury report: Minor League catcher Lou Palmisano's left knee is still sore and he will undergo a second MRI scan Wednesday. Palmisano was sidelined earlier in camp by the injury, but an MRI last month did not reveal any torn tissue, so he was able to participate in hitting drills. He never progressed to the point of catching, Yost said. The Brewers said the latest MRI results would be available on Thursday. Making a mark: An American League scout assigned to the Brewers this spring said he was particularly impressed with infielder/outfielder Hernan Iribarren. The Brewers will use Iribarren both at second base and center field this spring. "Every swing looks smooth," the scout said. "I really like him." Iribarren is a career .324 hitter in six Minor League seasons since signing with the Brewers in 2002. He hit .307 last year at Double-A Huntsville with 72 runs scored, 39 extra-base hits and 18 stolen bases. He's No. 1: Outfielder Matt LaPorta, the Brewers' first-round selection in 2007's First-Year Player Draft, got off to a hot start in Cactus League games. He batted .571 (4-for-7) in his first four games with a double and a run scored. LaPorta is in his first big league camp. He said it: "No." -- Yost, when asked if there were any redeeming qualities about Monday's yawner against the Padres
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.