NEW YORK -- The Yankees believe that Eduardo Nunez is athletic enough to handle left field without much difficulty, and the utility man got his chance to prove it on Monday.
Nunez started in left field as the Yankees began a three-game series with the Orioles, making just his sixth appearance (third start) in the outfield as a Major League player.
"When we put him in games in Spring Training, nobody hit the ball to him," manager Joe Girardi said. "So maybe that'll happen tonight. As a shortstop, you're used to catching fly balls and going out and getting balls. We think he's going to do fine."
Nunez's only appearance as an outfielder this year wasn't really in the outfield. He played one-third of an inning on Opening Day as part of a five-man infield behind Mariano Rivera, though technically he was the Yankees' right fielder.
"If they need me to play one week or two weeks in left field, I'll do it," Nunez said, adding, "If they need me to catch, I'll do it."
Backup catcher Chris Stewart, who lockers next to Nunez, overheard the comment and chimed in: "Tomorrow."
Catching isn't exactly in the cards for Nunez, and the Yankees still believe that his future is in the infield despite a rash of errors to begin his big league career.
"We have him targeted as being an everyday shortstop someday," Girardi said. "He's athletic, he has a lot of speed and there's a lot of different things he can do. We're going to find out."
The Yankees may need Nunez to get through only the Orioles series as a capable outfielder, with Raul Ibanez filling in as the right fielder and Andruw Jones on the bench on Monday. Nick Swisher is out with a left hamstring strain, but Brett Gardner is expected to come back from the disabled list on Thursday.
"We've talked a little bit about playing the outfield, especially here in this park," Gardner said. "You just kind of learn the corner and have the idea of what the ball is going to do coming off that corner. He has played there before. He's a good athlete, and it's left field -- that's where they put people that can't play anywhere else. He'll be fine."
Swisher remains out, but DL stint unlikely
NEW YORK -- Nick Swisher may have to wait a week to see if he can keep his hot start going, as the Yankees right fielder has been sent to the bench with a mild strain of his left hamstring.
Swisher said that he felt his hamstring "bite a little bit" as he took a swing against the Tigers' Max Scherzer during Sunday's 6-2 New York win. An MRI exam taken after Swisher's third-inning exit revealed the strain.
Manager Joe Girardi said that he is expecting Swisher to be sidelined until next Tuesday against the Rays, but Swisher is hoping to beat that timetable, more optimistically shooting for Thursday against the Royals in Kansas City.
"We all decided to be smart, take a couple of days off and get this thing 100 percent healed up," Swisher said. "I'm that type of guy that I like to take pride in being on the field every day. When you get banged up like this, it's kind of frustrating."
The Yankees believe they can get by without placing Swisher on the disabled list because Brett Gardner is expected to rejoin the club from his right elbow strain on Thursday in Kansas City.
Swisher is off to a blistering start, with his 23 RBIs ranking second in the American League only to the Rangers' Josh Hamilton, who has 25. Swisher is batting .284 with six homers in 21 games.
"This season is so important to us in that locker room," Swisher said. "I'd like to get it 100 percent healed up and get back in. Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later."
Ground broken on Yanks' Triple-A home
NEW YORK -- A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Monday at PNC Field in Moosic, Pa., the home of the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, as the club's home is refurbished before its anticipated re-opening in 2013.
Representatives from the Yankees, the Lackawanna County Commissioner's Office and Mandalay Baseball joined the Multi-Purpose Authority, the construction team, state officials and Moosic and Riverside officeholders for the event.
With its home field shuttered, the Triple-A club is mostly calling upstate New York home, having been temporarily rebranded as the Empire State Yankees. Thirty-seven of the club's home games are being played in Rochester, N.Y., with other "home" contests also played in Batavia, N.Y., Buffalo, N.Y., Syracuse, N.Y., Allentown, Pa., and Pawtucket, R.I.
The Yankees entered play on Monday leading the Majors with 36 home runs and were second behind the Rangers (120) with 118 runs scored. New York had homered in 12 of its last 13 games and in 18 of 21 games overall.
Yankees right-hander David Robertson entered Monday having thrown 10 scoreless innings, recording 15 of his outs via strikeouts. He has not allowed a run in his last 23 1/3 innings, dating to Sept. 1, 2011, the longest active scoreless stretch for any Major League pitcher, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
On this date in 1939, Lou Gehrig played the last of his 2,130 consecutive games, going 0-for-4 in a 3-2 loss to the Senators at Yankee Stadium. It was Gehrig's last Major League game, as he asked manager Joe McCarthy to remove him from the lineup on May 2 at Detroit. Coincidentally, it was also on this date in 1923 that the Yankees signed a 19-year-old Gehrig to a professional contract out of Columbia University.