Detroit — Maybe if he was bashing baseballs all over the yard, the discussion would’ve been different.
But Renato Nunez, after struggling at the plate in spring, produced four hits (two home runs) and three RBIs in 29 plate appearances after being called up from the taxi squad in Cleveland on April 11.
With Miguel Cabrera getting closer to returning to the lineup and the Tigers committed to keeping 14 pitchers in this stretch, Nunez, a right-handed hitter with no defensive versatility, became vulnerable.
The Tigers designated him for assignment Wednesday morning and activated infielder Zack Short from the alternate site.
The move to DFA Nunez also opened a spot on the 40-man roster for right-hander Spencer Turnbull, who was scheduled to pitch in the nightcap Wednesday.
“Our decision today was partly about keeping versatility with our bench,” manager AJ Hinch said. “Also, the anticipation of Miggy coming back hopefully this weekend.”
Carrying 14 pitchers, the Tigers are left with four bench players — backup catcher, outfielder and, with Short, two utility players. Nunez was limited to first base, where he made just three starts, and designated hitter.
“The Nunez move was a tough one because he really hadn’t gotten untracked,” Hinch said. “He helped us win a couple of games and he’s a major league player. We will see where it takes him. It puts him in limbo again like he was after (the Tigers released him) at the end of spring training.
“But if he clears waivers, we’d welcome him back with open arms.”
Short, who turns 26 on May 29, came to the Tigers last year from the Cubs in a trade for Cameron Maybin.
“He’s a trustable player who I can move all around the field,” Hinch said. “It’s fun to promote a guy for his major league debut, especially a hard worker and a guy who made a very fast impression on us.”
Short, a shortstop by trade, is a polished defender with a strong arm who played all four infield positions this spring. He also produced offensively with a home run, three doubles and a 1.04 OPS.
“I think he floated all the way here from Toledo,” Hinch joked. “I told him two things: One, you’re getting promoted and two, you’re in the starting lineup. And he was one of the first players here this morning.”
Short was in the lineup at third base for Game 1 on Wednesday. The word Hinch kept using in reference to Short was reliable.
“Our scouts were telling me, ‘You are going to like this kid, you’re going to like the way he plays,'” Hinch said. “He’s a baseball player. He’s kind of a baseball rat and you could see that very quickly. He will wear coaches out with work.
“He will always be at the right place at the right time. He’s got a bigger swing than his body (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) looks like it would. He swings big and has some pop in his bat. The more you watch him, the more you appreciate him.”
The Tigers are expected to add another player before Game 2. Teams are allowed a 27th man for doubleheaders.