HOUSTON -- The Yankees once viewed Eduardo Nunez as an everyday big league player, and even as a possible successor to shortstop Derek Jeter. No more, as Tuesday's moves strongly suggest that the next chapter of Nunez's career will come in a new uniform.
The Yankees designated Nunez for assignment, clearing a space on their 40-man roster for infielder Yangervis Solarte. Nunez lost his spot on the big league roster this spring when he was outplayed by both Solarte and another rookie, Dean Anna.
New York will have 10 days to trade, release or attempt to outright Nunez to the Minor Leagues through waivers. Nunez had previously been optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and general manager Brian Cashman suggested that a change of scenery may benefit Nunez.
"Tough call, but he's the way I went; it's just a tough call," Cashman said. "We thought through a lot of other different permutations, but I think it's best for right now to give him a new, fresh start, and we'll see where that takes him. We're allotted 10 days to make an assignment of his contract, so stay tuned."
Nunez, who turns 27 in June, owns a career .267 average in 270 big league games with the Yankees. The organization once thought of Nunez so highly, Cashman refused to include him in a July 2010 trade package with the Mariners that would have brought left-hander Cliff Lee to the Bronx.
Jesus Montero and the Yanks' choice of Nunez or Ivan Nova would have gone to Seattle in that proposed deal; instead, Lee was traded to the Rangers as a half-season rental and helped them advance to the World Series before returning to the Phillies.
"[Nunez] possesses a great deal of talent, and you can dream on him -- and we have -- as a potential everyday shortstop in the big leagues," Cashman said. "All that talent is still there, and I think his versatility does provide for a great deal of choices as a player on a Major League roster. We'll see what develops in the next 10 days."
Cashman said that the Yankees entered Spring Training envisioning Nunez on their Opening Day roster, but Anna and Solarte both opened eyes during camp. Solarte has more experience at second and third base than Nunez, and manager Joe Girardi expects to use Anna as Jeter's backup until Brendan Ryan returns from the disabled list.
"At times, clubs get into roster crunches and sometimes you have to put a good player on waivers," Girardi said. "I've said all along, it's someone that we've been very fond of, a great guy in the clubhouse. It's tough, but we'll see what happens."
Reunion with Pettitte, Clemens on tap for Jeter
HOUSTON -- The buzz was back in the Yankees' clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon. After a seven-week gauntlet of Spring Training and then a workout day at Minute Maid Park, the club is finally ready to lace up and start the 2014 season.
"I think we're all excited," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought we had a very good Spring Training, and then you leave Spring Training on Saturday and you have to wait a couple of days to play. I think there's anticipation. Obviously, the games in Spring Training mean something in a sense where guys are trying to get ready and guys are trying to make the team, but this is where it really counts. Guys look forward to that competition."
This marks the 112th season in franchise history, and the Yankees entered Tuesday holding a 63-47-1 record on Opening Day. They had lost four of their last five openers, including last year to the Red Sox, but had won six of their last 11, dating back to 2003.
"We're excited about the group we have here now," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "We have a lot of talent, but you have to go out on the field and play. It's a long season, so I'm not ever one to get into predictions or comparisons. We had a good spring, and now we're hoping to have a good season."
This campaign, of course, will carry the 162-game subplot of Jeter's farewell tour. Jeter will take part in the first of many pregame ceremonies on Wednesday in Houston, with Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens expected to be on hand.
General manager Brian Cashman does not sense that the team has any added urgency to win just because it is Jeter's last season.
"I think Jeter would be offended if somebody said, 'We've got to rally around Jeets,'" Cashman said. "We're rallying around the effort of trying to win a championship on a yearly basis. He represents that more than anybody."
Girardi said that because Jeter watched the careers of Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada come to their respective ends over the last few seasons, Girardi expects that Jeter will be able to enjoy this last lap through a big league schedule.
"It's definitely his last Opening Day, so I will watch carefully to see how he's handling it and to remind him, 'You really need to enjoy this,'" Girardi said. "It's hard to take your uniform off. The one thing about Derek is, he really enjoys playing the game, but I want him to soak up some of the other things as well."
Gardner lone lineup holdover from '13 opener
HOUSTON -- As the Yankees turn the page from last season's third-place finish in the American League East and start a new hunt for championship No. 28, Brett Gardner was surprised to learn that he is the only holdover from the 2013 Opening Day batting order.
Gardner batted seventh and started in left field in manager Joe Girardi's order on Tuesday. Three hundred sixty-five days ago, he was joined in a lineup by Eduardo Nunez, Robinson Cano, Kevin Youkilis, Vernon Wells, Ben Francisco, Ichiro Suzuki, Jayson Nix and Francisco Cervelli. Only Ichiro and Cervelli remain on the active roster.
"I haven't thought about that, but that's hard to believe," Gardner said. "There has definitely been a lot of turnover. I feel like all the new guys that they always bring in here really get along with everybody. Everybody fits in well together. We've got a great group of guys; I feel good about our team, and it's going to be a good year."
Aside from left-hander CC Sabathia, the Yankees have a completely different defensive alignment; Gardner was playing center field in last year's opener. This marks the first time that the Yankees have had completely different starters at each defensive position from one Opening Day to another since 1946 and '47.
"It's hard to believe there even was a last time for that," Gardner said.
• Gardner said that batting seventh won't be a huge adjustment for him; actually, Gardner has solid career numbers in the No. 7 hole. In 46 games, he has batted .337 (31-for-92) with a .417 on-base percentage in that slot.
"My job is to get on base, and the guys that are on base when I'm hitting, I'll try and get them over or drive them in," Gardner said. "When I get on base, I'll try and run and get in scoring position. I'll just try to play my game."
• Ryan was officially placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, retroactive to March 22, with a cervical spine nerve injury. Ryan has not resumed baseball activities and is continuing to receive treatment at the Yankees' Tampa, Fla., facility.
• Girardi said that he has no lingering concern about center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury's right calf. The Yankees were cautious with Ellsbury during the second half of Spring Training, but Girardi said that he was encouraged that Ellsbury "was able to play the games when we needed him to play."
• On this date in Yankees history, Pettitte threw seven strong innings in 2003 to help the Yanks defeat the Blue Jays, 1-0. It marked the franchise's first April Fool's Day victory.