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Yankees call up former independent leaguer Vidal Nuno

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

Nuno was pitching in an independent league less than two years ago. (USATSI)

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The Yankees have called up left-hander and former independent leaguer Vidal Nuno from Triple-A. He replaces Ivan Nova on the roster. Nova left Friday night's game with elbow pain and has been placed on the DL with triceps inflammation.

The 25-year-old Nuno has a rather interesting backstory. He was a 48th-round pick of the Indians in 2009, but they released him following the 2010 season. Nuno opened the 2011 season with the Washington Wild Things of the independent Frontier League before signing with the Yankees a few weeks later.

Since hooking on with New York, Nuno has done nothing but get outs in the minor leagues. He has pitched to a 2.10 ERA with a 218/40 K/BB rate in 226 2/3 innings since leaving indy ball while climbing from Single-A to Triple-A in less than 24 months. He allowed one run in 14 2/3 innings during spring training, putting himself in position to be the first one called up in case of injury.

Baseball America did not rank Nuno as one of the team's 30 best prospects in its annual Prospect Handbook, but the results were too good to ignore. He is a soft-tosser who relies more on command and mixing pitches than simply blowing hitters away, and he credits his recent success to a new cutter and a new changeup that he learned after signing with the Yankees.

“When I first got drafted during high school, I only had two pitches [fastball and curveball],” said Nuno to Chad Jennings of the Journal News during spring training. “Now I have five. It's just [being] a smarter pitcher. I don't think [about trying to] overthrow, and I hit my spots. That's one key I preach to myself: Just hit location, and make the ball dance, and you'll get people out.”

Nuno is expected to work out of the bullpen with David Phelps taking Nova's spot in the rotation, at least initially. He could certainly get a shot as a starter should Phelps be ineffective or someone else get hurt. Either way, going from a 48th-round pick to an independent league to the big leagues in a four-year span is one hell of a journey.

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