PORT ST. LUCIE — Eduardo Nunez spent the second half of last season in the Dominican Republic with thoughts of strengthening his chronically sore right knee to revive his baseball career.
Released by the Red Sox in July, the veteran infielder said he had immediate offers from other teams, but decided to take the long view.
“I decided to not play anymore to improve my knee,” said Nunez, who received a minor league deal with the Mets this offseason and is competing for a job in spring training. “If I kept playing, I would have kept struggling — no range, no defense, no offense, nothing.
“It was going to be tough for my career, so I decided not to play at all, go to the Dominican and do the right thing.”
The 32-year-old Nunez is receiving reps primarily at second and third base and could be a possibility to open the season with the club if Jed Lowrie isn’t ready. Lowrie, who missed almost all of last season with knee and hamstring-related ailments, has been wearing an extensive brace on his left leg and participating in drills, but still hasn’t appeared in an exhibition game.
Lowrie and the Mets have declined to provide a prognosis.
Nunez is 5-for-15 (.333) in six games. The former Yankee could be competing with Jake Hager and Max Moroff for a potential roster spot.
Though Nunez’s range at shortstop diminished with his knee hurting, he said he’s up for playing the position again if needed.
“I couldn’t move that much and I couldn’t get back into the hole,” Nunez said. “But now I have changed and I can get up quickly. I can have fun. No pain. It’s just the timing, the delivery — it’s easy now.”
The Mets had a day off Monday — they are scheduled for another next week — and will resume Grapefruit League action on Tuesday with Noah Syndergaard on the mound against the Marlins in Port St. Lucie.