Nuñez getting extra reps by standing in box for bullpen sessions: “It's like cheating"

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Nasim Nuñez is as relaxed as can be at Nationals spring training.

Last December’s Rule 5 Draft pick is already right at home with his new team, often seen sitting at his locker and just hanging out with his fellow prospects Trey Lipscomb, Darren Baker, Brady House, Robert Hassell III, James Wood and Dylan Crews.

“It's like a friend from high school that you haven't seen in so long,” said Nuñez, who already knew most of his new teammates coming into camp. “And then you see them and it's the same thing. Y'all just kickin’ it.”

The Nationals selected Nuñez from the Marlins with the No. 5 pick in the Rule 5 Draft at last year’s Winter Meetings, just their second selection in the event since 2010 after taking right-hander Thaddeus Ward from the Red Sox with the first pick in 2022.

In a process that is usually foreign to the player – and, in this case, the organization – Nuñez is still adjusting to his new situation.

“It's always weird. Anything that's new is weird,” he said about coming over as a Rule 5 player. “But I just look at it like it's the same thing I've been doing for the past four years with Miami. And then when they tell me I need to work on something, I go, 'All right, cool. I'll make an adjustment.'”

What adjustments do they have him working on?

“I can't wear certain colors,” he said with a laugh. “Just sometimes we gotta test the waters, and see what you can and can't do. And some things, they'll be, 'All right, that's cool.' But certain things it's like, 'Nah, bro, we don't do that here.' And I'm like, 'All right, that's cool.'”

One thing that he can do and has been doing often in camp is standing in during a pitcher’s bullpen session.

Of course, he doesn’t take any swings. But he does put on batting gloves, a helmet and a shin guard while holding a bat and digs into the box.

“It's like cheating,” Nuñez said. “I haven't really gotten a ton of at-bats. So those are the closest things you could get to an at-bat. See some live pitching, track where it's going and see where I want to see the ball, where I want to hit the ball, visualization. And it's like, we do so much hitting and swinging, that's something where you could practice without having to get actual exercise.”

Nuñez stood in for a Josiah Gray bullpen session early last week and then stood in on Patrick Corbin’s on Friday. The switch-hitter is getting work from both sides while helping the pitchers with their strike zones and targets.

“He's really working on his timing,” said manager Davey Martinez. “Working on trying to pick up spin earlier. And it can help you. We let our guys if they want to do it, as long as the pitcher will allow them to do it, to go ahead and stand in and just kind of work on getting ready. We always talk to them about just seeing the ball early, trying to pick up the ball really early. So it gets them on time.”

Scouted as a defensive specialist and basestealing threat, Nuñez only hit .225 with the Marlins’ Double-A affiliate last year. He hit .253 over 20 games in the Arizona Fall League. He’s only 2-for-17 (.118) in 11 Grapefruit League games this spring training.

Every little bit helps for a young player trying to keep his spot on the team. (The Nationals have to keep Nuñez on the active roster throughout the season or else offer him back to the Marlins. He cannot be optioned down to the minors.)

“Hitting is all about rhythm,” he said. “So once you get in a rhythm and you get your swagger in the box, and you don't have to swing, it's like you see what you want to hit. You get comfortable in there. The more comfortable you get, the more rhythm you get and the better you play. The better you hit.”

But while he stands in during bullpens and hangs out with his teammates in the clubhouse, Nuñez is enjoying his time in Nationals camp.

“It's mad cool,” he said. “The guys here are awesome. The coaching staff is dope. It's a friendly environment. Everybody's competing to better themselves for the season, so that we can have a winning season and continue to grow as a team. Something I'm working on at this moment right now is just getting back in the rhythm of things. … Still feels new, getting loose and getting ready for the season.”

Starting lineups: Nats vs. Mets in West Palm Beach
Adon more confident attacking strike zone in first...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to