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Tigers cut Renato Nuñéz, finalize Opening Day roster

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Joe Jiménez has been optioned to Triple-A Toledo, while Rule 5 pick Akil Baddoo has made the team.

Detroit Tigers v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers made their final decisions on the 2021 Opening Day roster on Saturday, and there was a surprise or two in store. First baseman Renato Nuñéz has been informed that he did not make the cut. Former closer Joe Jiménez was also left off the starting 26-man roster, and was optioned to Triple-A Toledo.

As a result, both Rule 5 pick—and darling of spring training—Akil Baddoo, and Victor Reyes have made the squad. The Tigers will carry five outfielders, perhaps using Miguel Cabrera’s days at first base to rotate one of their outfielders through the designated hitter spot.

Added to the bench alongside Baddoo and Reyes are utilitymen Niko Goodrum and Harold Castro. Both seem likely to see some duty at first base, but the Tigers could also rotate Jeimer Candelario or Jonathan Schoop to first base occasionally, using Goodrum or Castro at second or third base depending.

Nuñéz is the most interesting decision, as the slugger was late to camp due to slow intake through the COVID protocols. He only appeared in 12 games, giving the 26-year-pld slugger little to no time to get dialed in at the plate. However, the bat probably isn’t the issue of concern, as the Tigers coaching staff appears to have made the decision based on a rough showing at first base. Nuñéz spent most of his five years in the league as a bona fide designated hitter who only occasionally played both sides of the ball, so there presumably weren’t any real surprises in seeing him struggle some at first base. Apparently the Tigers didn’t see enough there to work with. They’ll now have to put together a lineup with enough power despite losing Nuñéz’s ability to crank 30 home runs a year, something few in the lineup even have the potential for doing.

Nuñéz has a few days left to opt-out of his deal, or accept an assignment to Triple-A Toledo. According to Hinch, the Tigers would like to keep him. That may be the likely outcome as he was cut by the Baltimore Orioles to begin with, and isn’t an easy fit for most teams as they finalize their Opening Day roster.

As for Jiménez, he’ll head to Triple-A to try and recapture the form that led him to an All-Star game appearance in 2018. Since that point, the home runs have become a problem, as has the decline in the formerly hard-throwing reliever’s velocity. Still just 26 years old, Jiménez retains the lively fastball that can buffalo hitters at times despite velocity more in the 94 mph range than his old 96-97. He just continues to struggle to repeat his delivery and locate his fastball with the command and the life he needs to succeed.

On Friday, Michael Fulmer was formally moved to the bullpen and locked into the Opening Day roster. That decision, and the ongoing success and flexibility provided by lefty Tyler Alexander, ultimately forced Jiménez back to the minor leagues.

The final roster looks like this, at least until Spencer Turnbull returns from the COVID injured list.

Rotation

LHP Matthew Boyd

RHP Julio Teheran

RHP Jose Ureña

LHP Tarik Skubal

RHP Casey Mize

Bullpen

LHP Daniel Norris

RHP Michael Fulmer

LHP Tyler Alexander

LHP Derek Holland

RHP Jose Cisneros

LHP Gregory Soto

RHP Buck Farmer

RHP Bryan Garcia

Position players

DH/1B Miguel Cabrera

2B Jonathan Schoop

SS Willi Castro

3B Jeimer Candelario

UT Niko Goodrum

UT Harold Castro

C Wilson Ramos

C Grayson Greiner

CF JaCoby Jones

LF Robbie Grossman

RF Nomar Mazara

OF Akil Baddoo

OF Victor Reyes