Nunez honored with first All-Star selection

Twins' versatile shortstop named among AL reserves

Nunez honored with first All-Star selection

MINNEAPOLIS -- In his seventh season in the Majors, Eduardo Nunez finally realized his dream of being an everyday player. On Tuesday, he reached an unlikely goal, as he was named an All-Star for the first time in his career despite not even being on the ballot.

After early-season injuries to third baseman Trevor Plouffe and shortstop Eduardo Escobar, Nunez started getting regular playing time, and he's made the most of it. He's been Minnesota's most consistent player, hitting .315/.341/.479 with 11 homers, 13 doubles, 34 RBIs and 19 stolen bases. Among American League leaders, he ranks ninth in batting average and third in stolen bases. He's supplanted Escobar as the club's regular shortstop but offers versatility to the AL squad because of his ability to play second, short and third.

"I'm very excited," Nunez said. "To go from a bench guy looking to get playing time to becoming an All-Star is a dream come true. I'm going to try my best to represent the Twins fans who supported me, my teammates and the organization."

Nunez, 29, joined the Twins via a trade with the Yankees before the 2014 season. He was considered the heir apparent to Derek Jeter at shortstop in New York, but was inconsistent in his four years with the team, especially defensively.

"He didn't get much of a chance to play in New York because they were so talented, and when he came over here, he brought in the reputation that he was a utility player," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "But he's proved that he can do more than be a utility player. Here he is as an All-Star all of a sudden. He's proud as you can be."

Nunez was a capable utility player in his first two seasons with the Twins but broke out this year after getting more regular playing time. He's been a bright spot for a Minnesota team that has otherwise disappointed this season.

"Regardless of where we're at as a club, I think you can justify his first half being All-Star caliber," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Month to month, there hasn't been much change. We all know he was up there around .350 for a while, but he's been consistent against left-handers and right-handers. He hasn't had any issue with me bouncing him around from third to short and second occasionally, and since he's been in the leadoff spot, he's been a catalyst for us as far as baserunning and consistency getting on base, driving in runs, scoring runs."

Interactive All-Star Game rosters

Nunez said he's not surprised by his impressive season, as he believed he could always do this but was never given a chance to get regular playing time until this year.

"I think playing every day is the key for me," Nunez said. "When you play one day a week, maybe you don't feel good that day and you have to wait another week to figure it out. But when you play every day, it's a different way to think." 

Fans can vote for the 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote until 4 p.m. ET on Friday. The winners, as chosen exclusively by online fan voting totals, will be announced during a Final Vote-themed telecast of "MLB Now" featuring commentary from political analyst Jeff Greenfield, live on MLB Network and MLB.com from 4-5 p.m. ET. MLB Network will provide extensive coverage across all of its studio programming during the Final Vote, including interviews with the candidates, frequent updates, heat maps indicating the cities where votes are being cast for each candidate, news on player and club campaigns and a running countdown clock leading up to the announcement.

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For the fifth consecutive year, the Final Vote will include social balloting, as Twitter support for the 10 candidates over the last six hours of balloting will count toward their vote totals. From 10 a.m.-4 p.m. ET on Friday, any tweet that includes a designated player hashtag will be tabulated as part of the official vote total used to determine the winners.

On Tuesday, July 12, watch the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2016 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. The 87th All-Star Game, in San Diego, will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.

Nunez is expected to fill a role similar to the one the Red Sox's Brock Holt served as an All-Star last year, as he gives AL manager Ned Yost -- who selected Nunez for the squad -- flexibility because of his ability to play multiple positions.

Other All-Star candidates for the Twins were second baseman Brian Dozier, catcher Kurt Suzuki and lefty reliever Fernando Abad. Dozier and Suzuki have come on strongly recently, heating up in June, while Abad has been the club's best reliever.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.