With Michael Restovich being called up to Washington and George Lombard making a trip to the DL, Nunez has received a chance to play every day. His production at the plate last week indicated that he has no plans of disappointing the Clippers in his new role.
Last Friday against Durham, Nunez started a hot streak by smashing his first home run of the season and adding three RBI in a 9-8 loss. His success carried over into this past week’s series—again with Durham—and helped the Clippers pull off three straight wins. In a 12-6 win Tuesday, Nunez was a perfect 4 for 4, tying a career high, with a double and a home run. He followed that performance with a game-winning home run Wednesday in a 1-0 win.
Nunez admitted that by putting in some extra time with the coaching staff, especially with hitting coach “Boots” Day, he has been able to make a few adjustments that have led to his hot streak.
“Well, the key has been that I’ve been working with the hitting coach. He showed me how to stay level through the ball and use the whole field,” Nunez said.
Nunez also acknowledged that his new approach has helped him to become more confident, and that this new confidence has enabled him to consistently make better contact with the baseball. Obviously it’s worked—Nunez has raised his batting average from .062 to .231 in just six games.
“More than anything, I’ve started trusting more in myself. When you trust yourself and get that help from the hitting coach, everything will be good. I feel a lot better at the plate,” Nunez said.
The Dominican Republic native said he usually has more power from the right side of the plate, but he feels comfortable from either side. His power was clearly not limited to the right side of the plate last week because two of his homers came as a lefty.
Perhaps his most impressive feat of last week was how he responded to the strange start time the Clippers faced on Wednesday. After playing Tuesday night, Columbus and Durham met at 11:00 a.m. the next morning, and Nunez’s home run in his first at-bat was the only offense the Clippers had going for them. Nunez admitted that Tuesday’s at-bats required a little more focus than an ordinary day at the plate.
“Man I was tired. I said I have to try and get a base hit the first at-bat because I know the next two at-bats are going to be tough. I was tired and it was early,” Nunez said. “So I told myself I have to concentrate at this first at-bat when I’m not as tired, because later on, it’s going to get harder and harder.”
Often, when a guy is hitting as well as Nunez has been, a day off is not as desirable as usual because it’s important to keep a rhythm swinging the bat. However, Nunez said that he did not believe the Clippers’ day off on Thursday would prevent him from continuing his success. The time off also allowed him to devote time to areas other than baseball.
“I’ve got my family here. You know you always want to be with your family. I know I’m still going to play well because I’m still feeling good. I still felt good in batting practice today,” Nunez said Friday.
Nunez played with Fresno last season and despite serving a 50-game suspension midway through the season, he was able to put up solid numbers. In 78 games, the outfielder hit .279 with 12 HR, 19 doubles, and 57 RBI.
The Nationals signed Nunez as a free agent in January and are hoping that his talent as a switch-hitter can eventually provide depth to the Nationals’ young outfield. Thus far, Nunez has been pleased with his time in Columbus and with the organization.
“I feel great," he said. "They give me a chance to play every day. There are a lot of good guys here and the manager is a good guy too. I’m enjoying it.”
Besides his power at the plate, Nunez brings another asset to the Clippers—big-league experience. Nunez played with Florida and Kansas City in 2004. Although he learned a lot during his time at the big show, he understands that, above all, he must bring his A-game day in and day out.
“I learned a lot of things [in the majors]. If you want to be in the major leagues, you’ve got to be consistent. That’s what I’m trying to do here, be consistent.”
Nunez struggled with his hitting during the first few weeks of the season, but he was not alone, as many of the Clippers started off slow offensively. Now that he is getting more at-bats under his belt, his production is starting to become on par with his expectations. And some higher temperatures on the thermometer haven’t hurt either.
“The weather was probably 80 percent of it. People said we forgot some things when we got to the field, but let’s not forget, it’s cold. I think that was a problem,” Nunez said. “If you look around, you’ll see a lot of good hitters here. And the manager knows we can do a lot better than that. So he said, ‘Guys I’m not worried about your hitting, because I know you can hit better than that.’ And we all know we’re good hitters.”
In order to get the call from Washington, Nunez again stressed that he must maintain steady numbers and keep improving.
“What I have to do is just be more consistent. Be more consistent with my hitting,” Nunez said. “I have to keep using the whole field.”