Red Sox name Eduardo Nunez as starting second baseman for Opening Day

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 01: Eduardo Nunez
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 01: Eduardo Nunez /

Eduardo Nunez is expected to open the season as the starting second baseman for the Boston Red Sox with Dustin Pedroia sidelined.

Alex Cora may still be toying with the lineup he will role out for his first Opening Day as manager of the Boston Red Sox. One aspect that seems certain is that it will include Eduardo Nunez.

ESPN’s Scott Lauber reports that Cora has named Nunez as his starting second baseman to open the 2018 season.

Nunez is capable of covering several infield positions. While the Red Sox will look to take advantage of that versatility over the course of the season, it’s no surprise that Nunez will start out covering second. Dustin Pedroia is expected to begin the season on the disabled list while recovering from offseason knee surgery, giving Nunez at least a few weeks to have the position to himself.

While most of us assumed Nunez would be the Opening Day second baseman, it wasn’t set in stone. The 30-year old sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last September. He made it back for Game 1 of the ALDS against the Houston Astros, only to be carried off the field when his knee gave out at the plate. His recovery delayed his arrival to camp, as the Red Sox didn’t re-sign the free agent infielder until February 18.

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Nunez played in his first game of the spring on Thursday. Being cleared for game action seems to be enough for his manager to feel comfortable declaring Nunez ready to start Opening Day.

Once Pedroia returns, the role of Nunez becomes a bit unclear. The 34-year old Pedroia will need plenty of maintenance days off when Nunez can fill in. He can also back up Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Rafael Devers at third. He may even see time at DH in games where J.D. Martinez talk his way into an outfield spot. Yet, barring injuries, there is no clear path to Nunez gaining an everyday role.

The Red Sox will be forced to find room for him in the lineup if he hits the way he did last year. Nunez was a spark plug for this team following the mid-season trade with the San Francisco Giants. He hit .321 with a .892 OPS and eight home runs in 38 games with the Red Sox. Boston’s run production jumped from 4.79 runs per game to 5.03 with Nunez in the lineup.

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As long as there are no setbacks with his knee this spring, we should expect to see Nunez in the lineup when the Red Sox travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Rays on March 29. His playing time may fluctuate during the season but expect Nunez to play a key role for this team.