Slugger Renato Nunez sticks with contract; Tigers believe he can help down the road

Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. — Offsetting news Monday that the Tigers had lost pitching coach Chris Fetter for the time being to COVID-19 protocol, manager AJ Hinch revealed that first baseman Renato Nunez has decided to stick with the Tigers rather than pursue work with another club.

Nunez, a right-handed hitting first baseman who next week turns 27, did not make the north-bound Tigers roster and, per his contract, could have opted out of the minor-league deal he signed with Detroit in February.

Nunez has power the Tigers desperately seek but ran into a fatal numbers game when Hinch decided to carry five outfielders on the 26-man Opening Day roster.

Nunez hit 43 home runs for the Orioles in 202 games spanning the 2019 and 2020 seasons. He batted .200 in a dozen Grapefruit League games this spring, with one homer.

“This is great news for us,” Hinch said. “We wanted him to stay — we thought this was a good place for him and not a closed door. It took some recruitment with his agent, and with Renato, and our players chipped in and wanted him to stay.

“But he loves this team and he loves the fit. He wants to be part of the solution, and we’re happy with his decision.”

The Tigers have no full-time first baseman as Hinch plans to use various options there, including, on occasion Miguel Cabrera. They also have minimal home-run and extra-base crunch throughout any lineup Hinch might choose to deploy, at least early in a regular season that for the Tigers begins Thursday.

Nunez’s issue is not offense as much as defense. He was cut loose by the Orioles primarily because of deficits with his glove, something the Tigers became acquainted with during spring camp.

More: Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter tests positive for COVID-19, will miss first Opening Day

We’re running a new-subscriber special. Support local journalism, and subscribe here.

The Tigers, however, can neither afford to be overly focused on defense when their bats threaten to be an ongoing issue. Nor do they believe Nunez’s case is hopeless. Nunez will be assigned to the alternate-training site at Toledo as the Tigers’ top prospects and near-miss candidates for the Opening Day roster train at the home of their Triple A affiliate.

The minor-league season for 2021 begins in early May.

“We’re confident he can come up and help us,” Hinch said of Nunez. “He can hit. The configuration with five outfielders was not to his advantage. But that can change quickly.

“And we may change our minds,” Hinch said, speaking of spontaneous decisions that could put Nunez in Detroit. “We’ll (assess) all the different variables that impacted the first decision.”

Hinch said Nunez would be in the starting lineup Monday at Tampa when the Tigers play the Yankees, and again Tuesday as the Tigers close spring camp with a game against the Rays in Lakeland.

Lynn Henning is a freelance writer and a retired Detroit News sportswriter.

Articles You May Like

Six day two 2024 MLB draft prospects who could interest the Tigers
GameThread: Tigers vs. Dodgers, 1:40 p.m.
Tigers 10, Guardians 1: Bats come alive in afternoon blowout
Tigers select pitcher Owen Hall with 49th pick in 2024 MLB Draft
Injury Notes: Hall, Lawlar, Garrett, Gipson-Long

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *