CLEVELAND -- After serving as a utility player for the first six years of his career, Eduardo Nunez is getting regular playing time this year and is making the most of it.
Nunez, who filled in for third baseman Trevor Plouffe when he was on the 15-day disabled list, is now the club's everyday shortstop with Eduardo Escobar on the DL. Nunez, 28, entered Saturday hitting .356/.398/.511 with two homers, six doubles, 12 RBIs and six stolen bases in 26 games. Because of his impressive start, he's the club's regular No. 2 hitter in the lineup.
"He's got an opportunity, and I think he's always wanted to be an everyday type of guy," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We don't know how it's going to play out in the long-term, but he's been really good for us. His performance, quite frankly, is why I can put him in that two-hole each day. I'm confident he'll give me good at-bats. And he runs the bases aggressively."
Nunez said that knowing he is going to be in the lineup every day has helped both his confidence and his timing at the plate. Last year, he played well while making spot starts, hitting .282/.327/.431 in 72 games, but said he believes his improved numbers are because he's playing multiple games in a row to get into a groove.
"It's helped me a lot," Nunez said. "It's different. If you play every day, you know your job and you can get better. But if you don't play every day, you might only get one shot every week. Like playing every day, I know I can make an adjustment for tomorrow. When you don't play every day, if you have a bad game, you might not play 'til next week."
Nunez's hot start has been boosted by a likely unsustainable .417 average on balls hit into play, but he's hitting line drives a career-best 23 percent of the time while also seeing his ground-ball rate drop by nearly 13 percentage points. He's also swinging at a career-low 27.8 percent of pitches out of the zone, compared to a career rate of 34.1 percent.
"I'm just trying to keep doing what I'm doing," Nunez said. "My timing is fine. I've worked hard in the cage. When your timing is better, you don't swing at as many bad pitches. Even if you have a few bad at-bats, you can adjust for the last two, like last night."
As Nunez noted, he started out Friday's game by going 0-for-3, before homering in the eighth and hitting an RBI single in the ninth in his last two at-bats. He knows he's not guaranteed playing time the rest of the season, but he said he's trying to make the best of his opportunity.
"You're not going to keep your timing if you play just once a week, it's impossible," Nunez said. "So I love it. I wish I could've played every day throughout my career. But I understand what happened in New York [from 2010-13]. I didn't have a chance there. But I feel like I have a chance here, and I wanted to prove that to everybody, the manager, the GM."