PEORIA, Ariz. — The early reviews on Dedniel Nunez’s slider are mixed.
“It doesn’t break as much as I want to,” was the self-assessment from the Giants righty.
The guy catching him had a different view.
“His slider is absolutely ridiculous,” came from Curt Casali. “It’s a wipeout pitch. It’s one of the best I’ve seen. I’m really excited for him.”
Casali, who was catching Nunez for the first time, took the blame for an appearance that looks worse in the box score than it was in reality, Nunez testing himself to mixed results against one of the best lineups baseball has to offer.
He relied upon a fastball that touched 97 mph for his first two hitters — Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, whose bank accounts are just a touch bigger than his. Tatis singled solidly and Machado followed with an RBI double.
“I wasn’t nervous. I was anxious because I wanted to strike them out,” the confident Nunez said through translator Erwin Higueros during the Giants’ 9-3 loss to the Padres at Peoria Sports Complex on Friday. “And I couldn’t do that, but then I settled down and was able to get the next hitters.”
Casali, who visited Nunez twice during his inning of work, started calling for the slider more. The 24-year-old got Eric Hosmer to fly out before dazzling with stuff that made the Giants select him and has given them hope he can stick for the 2021 campaign.
Nunez threw six pitches to Tommy Pham and Wil Myers. His two fastballs were 97 and 96 mph, but a series of four breaking pitches sat down the two quality hitters.
“That was really impressive. He’s just a fearless competitor out there,” Gabe Kapler said over Zoom. “We think he has a chance to be special in large part because of that slider and his ability to attack the strike zone.
“He’s got a lot of work to do and he’s got to remain consistent throughout camp, continue to bring the strike-throwing mentality, but he has a real chance to be good for us.”
So few Rule 5 selections last, and Nunez would have to remain on the Giants’ active roster (or IL) all season to not be offered back to the Mets. The manager already has said the club feels more confident at this stage with Nunez than it did with Dany Jimenez last year, who pitched just 1 1/3 innings before returning to the Blue Jays.
Nunez had not pitched above High-A ball with New York and was a starter in the system with good control, but he flashed better stuff in instructional league play. Still, he said he was surprised by the selection because he didn’t have any upper-minors experience.
He now has experience against one of the toughest lineups in baseball. The Giants wanted to use him early in the game for that reason: to see how stuff played. After a hiccup, they were impressed.
Nunez loves his fastball but said he’s realized he’ll need to perfect his slider if he’s going to survive in the majors. He’s on a team that can help, and he’s got a teammate who can help.
Johnny Cueto “has given me a lot of advice,” Nunez said, one Dominican Republic native tutoring another. “He has told me that it is the same kind of baseball that is played here with one exception: that the hitters here are more disciplined, they know their strike zone. [He has said] to have confidence in myself.”