He had spent five years in the minors until making his first start for the New York Yankees on May 13 against the team that originally drafted him. Nuno pitched five scoreless innings and struck out three in a 7-0 shutout of the Indians.
In two appearances so far for the Yankees, Nuno has not allowed a run in eight innings.
Nuno's style is reminiscent of that of Blue Jays pitcher Ricky Romero. Both have a lot of moving parts and while Romero may throw a little harder, Nuno is very effective with a fastball that tops out at about 88 mph (Courtesy of FanGraphs). Sooner or later, major league hitters will catch up to him, but his control is what sets him apart.
In his five years in the minors, Nuno has walked 69 over 385 innings. He rarely gets into trouble, as evidenced by a career WHIP of 1.09 and his opponents' batting average of .243. Nuno started 2013 in spring training with the Yankees and put together very impressive numbers that obviously caught the eye of some important people.
In seven games (two starts), he gave up one run in 10 innings for a 0.61 ERA while striking out 13 with a stunning WHIP of 0.95.
He didn't make the Yankees out of spring training but continued to showcase his abilities at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre where he went 2-0, with a 1.54 ERA in 23.1 innings, allowing 13 hits and four earned runs with 26 strikeouts and a WHIP of 0.64.
Yes, the journey through the minors for Nuna probably took a little longer than expected, but that is normal in a story like this.
According to a press release on the NAIA website, Nuno is in select company when it comes to players that have come from his NAIA school:
Nuno became only the second Baker Wildcat to make it to the majors, and the first since Zip Zabel, a right-handed pitcher who won 12 games for the Chicago Cubs from 1913 to 1915.
The realization that the NAIA is full of talent is evident by the increasing amount of players drafted each year: 45 in 2011 and 44 in 2012. Now that the independent leagues are in the forefront as a proving ground for many players such as Scott Kazmir, playing in each is more of a benefit now than it's ever been.
Nuno's journey through the minors hit a roadblock in 2010 when he was released by the Indians after the season and had to prove his worth in the independent Frontier League.
Six games with the Washington Wild Things were good enough for the Yankees, as they signed him shortly thereafter. Since then, all Nuno has done is jumped from Single-A to Triple-A in two years and get people out on a consistent basis.
Every ballplayer's journey is different and everyone has a different story to tell. For Nuno, it has been one of perseverance and dedication.
There is no telling what lies ahead for Nuno, and perhaps it's for the best.
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