From Baker University to Yankees pinstripes, Vidal Nuno’s rise through baseball has been rapid and improbable.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
Nuno, a left-hander assigned to the bullpen, has yet to take the mound in the majors after being called up from Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday. But he told his college coach, Phil Hannon, in a telephone call Sunday evening that he’s ready to go.
“They’ve given him a couple of days to get acclimated,” Hannon said. “He’s ready to take the ball any time.”
Nuno got the call when the Yankees placed Ivan Nova on the 15-day disabled list because of inflammation in his right triceps, and on Saturday, Nuno became the second player in Baker’s history to wear a major-league uniform in a game.
The first? Zip Zabel, a pitcher who won 12 games for the Chicago Cubs from 1913-15.
“There’s quite a buzz around here about this,” Hannon said.
Baker to the bigs is one thing. But Nuno also has leaped from the Washington Wild Things of the independent Frontier League to the majors in two years.
“It’s been a quite a journey for him,” Hannon said.
Nuno, a California native, had a 15-7 record in two years at Baker, which plays in the NAIA. He was the 2008 Heart of America Athletic Conference pitcher of the year as a junior and became the school’s first player chosen in the major-league draft when the Indians took him in the 48th round of 2009.
He pitched for three teams in two seasons and was released after 2010. But according to Hannon, a Yankees’ scout saw Nuno pitching for Wild Things, located in Washington, Pa., and was impressed with his command.
Over the next two years, Nuno rapidly pitched his way through the Yankees system as a starter, getting better at each stop. In four AAA starts this season, he was 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA with two walks in 23 1/3 innings.
“He’s developed four or five pitches, and what they like about him is he can throw for strikes any time in the count,” Hannon said. “He’s always around the plate and he doesn’t walk anybody. And he works quickly.”
Still, there’s plenty to learn, and Nuno’s been soaking up the knowledge.
“He told me that when CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte talk, he sits and listens and takes it all in,” Hannon said.