Red Sox: Nunez picks up where he left off

ST PETERSBURG, FL - MARCH 29: Eduardo Nunez
ST PETERSBURG, FL - MARCH 29: Eduardo Nunez /

The utility man is back healthy for the Red Sox, as evident in his performance on Opening Day.

Before Red Sox utility man Eduardo Nunez could make an impact in the ALDS, his knee gave out again, preventing him from making it to first base. A sad, concerning sight for Red Sox fans who watched Nunez get carried off the field.

Losing his bat and versatility was a big blow to Boston’s lineup. Nunez posted a .321 average with eight HR and 27 RBI in 165 at-bats for the Red Sox, after he was acquired from the Giants.

He didn’t require surgery, but his fragile knee was suddenly a concern moving forward.

Nunez free agency lingered while his knee concerned many teams from signing the utility man. The Red Sox were among few teams that remained interested in Nunez’s services as a slow free agency played out.

The Red Sox finally re-signed Nunez to a one-year, $6 million contract to resume his role as the primary utility man in Boston.

Many wondered how healthy the 30 year old would look on Opening Day after his knee ended his season last year. Nunez would not disappoint. Despite the health worries, Nunez’s bat was in mid-season form today.

In his first AB, Nunez hit a blooper to the outfield gap that should’ve been a single at most. However, neither Kevin Kiermaier nor Denard Span could track it down. The ball fell to the turf as both outfielders made a stab at it, but completely missed it.

As the ball rolled all the way to the center field wall, Nunez turned on a second-gear sprint around the bases. As the Rays finally collected the ball and delivered it home, Nunez had already dove safely for an inside-the-park home run.

The knee looks completely healed, and Nunez’s wheels look back to form. This is excellent news for the Red Sox who are already dealing with Dustin Pedroia‘s knee surgery. Pedroia is expected back in late May, leaving a hole in the lineup.

With Nunez’s 2-4 day at the plate, the concerns have washed away. The second baseman has assured speculators that he can be penciled in the lineup every day while Pedroia is healing.

Next: Red Sox vs Tampa Bay Rays Opening Day lineup and notes

Nunez’s bat is a key piece to Boston’s success. Depth was an issue for the Red Sox last season, as Chris Young and Brock Holt failed to deliver at the plate. If Nunez can replicate his numbers from last season, it would turn a previous weakness into a strength for 2018.