The Detroit Tigers called up infielder Zack Short ahead of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates. To make room for Short on the 26-man roster, slugging first baseman Renato Nunez has been designated for assignment.
By cutting Nunez, he has also been removed from the 40-man roster and must clear waivers to remain with the organization. The 40-man roster is now at 39 players, meaning right-hander Spencer Turnbull will be activated before his start in Game 2 of the doubleheader.
Whenever Short finds his way into the lineup, the 25-year-old will be making his MLB debut. He has a career .241 batting average across 371 games in four minor-league seasons. He spent 2020 at the Tigers’ alternate training site in Toledo because COVID-19 canceled the minors.
“He’s an overall good baseball player,” manager AJ Hinch said April 12, when Short joined the traveling taxi squad for most of the recent 10-game road trip. “Good baseball players make their way across the minor leagues and into consideration for the big leagues. If something happens, I would have all the confidence in the world that he’s going to be pretty good for us.”
The Tigers acquired Short — who can play second base, shortstop and third base — from the Chicago Cubs at last year’s trade deadline for outfielder Cameron Maybin.
In 17 spring training games, Short went 5-for-19 (.263) with three doubles, one home run, four RBIs, five walks and seven strikeouts. He missed roughly one week of games because of COVID-19 contact-tracing protocols.
Short hit .235 with 14 doubles, two triples, six home runs and 25 RBIs in 63 games combined at three levels of the Cubs’ farm system in 2019. He missed most of the first half of the season with a broken finger on his left hand. In 2018, he spent 124 games with Double-A Tennessee, hitting .227 with 17 homers and 59 RBIs.
He is the Tigers’ No. 24 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. The Cubs drafted him in the 17th round in the 2016 draft from Sacred Heart University.
When Nunez signed with the Tigers on a minor-league contract this winter, the organization hoped he could fill the void at first base. The 27-year-old combined for a .247 batting average, 43 home runs and 121 RBIs in 203 games for the Baltimore Orioles between the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
However, Nunez is a below-average defender.
That’s why he was cut by the Orioles and sent to the minors by the Tigers before spring training ended. It’s tough to envision Miguel Cabrera and Nunez — confined to the first base and designated hitter spots — on the roster together. Cabrera could return from his biceps strain as early as this weekend. (Once Cabrera is activated, it’s possible Short gets sent back down.)
“I like to play first base,” Nunez said April 12, after homering in his second game with the Tigers in a 6-2 win over the Houston Astros. “If I get the chance to play out there every day, I would feel a lot more comfortable.”
Nunez is 4-for-27 (.148) with two doubles, two homers, three RBIs, one walk and eight strikeouts in seven games this season. Cabrera is 3-for-24 (.125) with one homer, three RBIs, three walks and four strikeouts.