PHOENIX - It’s taken 100 games into the 2019 season for Renato Núñez to make his return to third base.
Núñez started at first base last night at Chase Field and is moving across the diamond tonight. The motivation for manager Brandon Hyde likely centers on the lack of a designated hitter in a National League park and the desire to keep Núñez’s power bat in the lineup.
Hyde indicated prior to the road trip that Núñez would get more opportunities in the field. Núñez has been taking ground balls at both corners.
“It feels great to be back over there,” Núñez said this afternoon. “I’m going to practice a lot, take a lot of ground balls and just enjoy the time there.”
The repetitions at third base increased over the last homestand.
“I think almost every day,” said Núñez, who leads the club with 23 home runs. “I’ve been working a lot at third and first base, too. Almost every day I think you guys can see me there working. Hopefully it’s going to be a good game.”
Núñez made 56 starts at third base last summer after the Orioles selected him off waivers from the Rangers. He posted a .946 fielding percentage.
Hyde is sitting Ruiz tonight despite the Diamondbacks starting right-hander Merrill Kelly.
A sore biceps muscle removed Núñez from third base in spring training and he already was trying to overcome a reputation for being erratic in the field. He possesses a strong arm, but is throwing accuracy has been viewed as a weakness.
Núñez has played only one inning at third base this season and he kept flipping with Ruiz between the corner and second depending on the batter.
Alberto is starting at second tonight and Núñez said he isn’t aware of a similar plan.
“I haven’t heard anything about that,” he said. “Like I said, I’m just going to focus on my game and leave the rest for the manager and the coaches.”
Meanwhile, Mark Trumbo reported to Triple-A Norfolk to resume his injury rehab assignment. He’s serving as the Tides’ designated hitter tonight in Rochester and singled in his first at-bat.
Nate Karns’ rehab assignment moved to Single-A Frederick and he’s starting tonight after throwing a 20-pitch simulated inning at Camden Yards.
Karns is going at least two innings tonight.