The Indians are set to begin a traditional doubleheader on Monday against the Yankees, consisting of two previously rained out games that bookended the Tribe’s opening homestand. The pitching matchups for the two games are as as follows:
Game 1: David Phelps (1-1, 5.02 ERA) v. Justin Masterson (5-2, 3.67 ERA).
Game 2: Vidal Nuno (0-0, 0.00ERA) v. Trevor Bauer (1-1, 2.70 ERA).
If the name Vidal Nuno is at all familiar with you, you would have to be quite the minor league aficionado, or Vidal Nuno himself. Vidal was selected in the 48th round by the Indians in the 2009 MLB draft, and is the only of all 27 Cleveland Indians 48th round picks to reach the major leagues.
As seen above, Nuno had a great season in low A ball with Mahoning Valley in 2009, going 5-0 with a 2.05 ERA and microscopic 1.000 WHIP. Going into 2010, Nuno started for the 2010 Lake County Captains who went on to win the Midwest League championship. He posted a rough 4.96 ERA and nearly 10 hits per nine innings. Despite this, Nuno was a more efficient pitcher in regards to walks and strikeouts in 2010. In 2009, Nuno recorded 14 walks and 48 strikeouts; in 2010, he recorded 14 walks and 94 strikeouts. There were obvious signs of improvement out of Nuno, but it is hard to get past the rough 4.96 ERA, especially when facing such low levels of talent.
According to minor league maestro Tony Lastoria of Indians Baseball Insider (Twitter: @TonyIBI), the Indians did not see much overwhelming potential out of Nuno.
“Nuno was a swing guy at Lake County that year as a non-priority prospect but good depth option. He did not impress with his stuff and was subsequently released after spring training in 2011. The Indians just had other arms they deemed to have more priority. ”
After being released, Nuno was passed up by every single MLB team. He chose to play independent ball with the Washington Wildthings in 2011 and eventually was picked up by the Yankees. From there, he skyrocketed through the Yankees farm system, improving at every stop along the way. Nuno is currently two years removed from independent ball, and in four AAA starts this season; he was 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA with two walks in 23 1/3 innings.
Lastoria goes on to elaborate about Nuno’s makeup.
“He’s always been a strikethrower. His curveball and changeup has some potential so obviously they must’ve improved greatly the last two years. High 80’s low 90’s guy. Always around the plate.”
Nuno himself says in an interview with Joe Auriemma of YES Network that his own strengths include “commanding any pitch, any count” and that his weaknesses include “trying to overthrow, sometimes, and leaving balls up in the zone, and hitters take advantage of it.”
According to my own observations and Lastoria’s, it looks like Nuno is very far from anything special. The Yankees are so stretched thin for arms (probably wish they still has Zach McAllister) that Nuno’s recent turnaround has given him a trip to the majors. With Ivan Nova newly injured, the Yankees have to resort to the former Indians farmhand to start Game 2. So far this season, Nuno has only one appearance pitching the final 3 innings in a 9-1 Yankees loss to the Astros on April 29. He did not allow a run while giving up four hits and recording two strikeouts.
Nuno will more than likely be nothing more than a mop-up or damage control arm out of the Yankees pen, and might make a spot start or two if he impresses tonight. Nevertheless, it is invaluable for Nuno to able to speak and listen with future Hall of Famers like Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia while in the dugout. Former college coach of Nuno’s, Phil Hannon said to Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star “…when CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte talk, [Nuno] sits and listens and takes it all in.”
Did the Indians miss something with Nuno in talent evaluation? Unlikely. His turnaround has been extremely extraordinary, and it is surprising to see someone with average talent to be starting for the New York Yankees. But with the mass amount of injuries the Yankees are facing, they are hoping to get something out of the former Lake County Captain, Vidal Nuno.