SAN DIEGO – Eduardo Nunez is the Twins’ only representative at this year’s All-Star Game. But he was far from feeling lonely during Monday’s media day.
Right across from him sat pitcher Dellin Betances, Nunez’s former spring training roommate with the Yankees. Around the corner, offseason workout buddy Robinson Cano entertained a large media contingent.
On his phone, among the many congratulatory messages Nunez received were ones from Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter — with Nunez making it clear that Jeter’s message came before No. 2 married model Hannah Davis over the weekend. Nunez also mentioned he has good relationships with Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion and the Yankees’ Carlos Beltran.
This is Nunez’s first All-Star appointment, making it special in its own right. Being able to a share it with a couple of his former Yankees teammates and other baseball friends enhances everything, he said.
“It’s always good to be around your friends,” Nunez said. “All these people, they grow up together with me.”
Nunez, 29, was signed by the Yankees in 2004, debuted with them in 2010 and was traded to the Twins in 2014 for minor league pitcher Miguel Sulbaran. Nunez has spent the past several offseasons working out with Cano, Encarnacion, the Angels’ Albert Pujols, Miami’s Marcell Ozuna, Arizona’s Jean Segura and others in the Dominican Republic. Cano’s father, Jose, will throw batting practice to them over the offseason while they work on their swings.
“When he first came up with New York, he was a guy that was trying to hit everything to the right side of the field,” Robinson Cano said. “Something we have been working on every year is trying to use the whole field and just have your swing and not try to force the ball to the other way.”
Cano said he used to have an inside-out swing as well. So they both worked on being able to pull inside pitches with authority. All Nunez needed, Cano said, was a chance to play every day to show he could be an everyday player.
Nunez got that this year due to injuries and has been the Twins’ most consistent hitter, batting .321 with 12 homers, 40 RBI and 22 stolen bases.
“He worked hard and he loves the game,” Cano said. “He wanted to get better every year, and I’m so happy for him the way he works hard — when you work hard, it pays off.”
Cano and Betances are looking forward to spending time with Nunez during All-Star week because Nunez is the one known for using humor to keep things loose in the clubhouse.
“He just comes out with ridiculous comments and makes everyone laugh,” Betances said. “I think his laugh itself makes the room laugh. That’s one of his keys. He’ll laugh for five minutes straight, it doesn’t matter if it is funny for not. He’s going to laugh, so you are going to start laughing.
“I’m excited to be here with him. This is fun, man.”
Nunez flew in Sunday night after the Twins’ series in Texas. He said there are eight people in his contingent, including his mother, uncle and nephew. They went to an All-Star Game related function for a while, then headed for the hotel.
He doesn’t know when, or even if, he will play in the Midsummer Classic on Tuesday. He seemed to not care. Being named to the team was a big enough honor, and being able to share it with some of his favorite people makes it all the more special.
“It’s one of my dreams come true,” Nunez said, “and I’m going to enjoy it.’’