On Wednesday, Renato Núñez’s decision to remain with the Tigers was rewarded with a return to the big leagues that just might come at the perfect time.
With Núñez recalled from Triple-A Toledo, the right-handed slugger gets to rejoin the Tigers at the site of his most sustained Major League success in Baltimore. And he does so potentially just in time to have a front-row seat to watch compatriot, teammate and boyhood idol Miguel Cabrera reach 500 career home runs.
“I have no words to describe it,” the 27-year-old Núñez said of the possibility of being there when the 38-year-old Cabrera becomes the 28th player -- and the first Venezuelan -- to hit 500 home runs. “As you guys all know, he’s my favorite player. … And just [to] watch him play and hopefully have the opportunity to watch him hit the 500th? That would be something special, of course.”
Cabrera sits on 498 home runs entering the second of three games at Camden Yards, a ballpark where he’s clubbed 11 round-trippers and has slugged .527 in 39 career games.
Meanwhile, Núñez has hit 23 of his 54 big league homers in Baltimore, where he was part of the early phase of the Orioles’ rebuilding effort from 2018-20. Two hundred sixty-three of Núñez’s 300 Major League games came in that stretch, in which he batted .253 with 50 homers and 141 RBIs.
Signed by Detroit as a free agent before this season, Núñez could have looked elsewhere after he was designated for assignment to Toledo on April 21 following a slow start.
Instead, he accepted the Triple-A role and eventually flourished, entering Wednesday leading all Triple-A-East hitters in RBIs (64), sitting second in slugging (.585) and tied for second in homers (20).
Núñez rejoins Detroit, along with infielder Derek Short, as outfielders Akil Baddoo and Derek Hill head to the injured list following their scary outfield collision on Tuesday night.
“I decided to stay here because I like this team,” Núñez said of the Tigers, who entered Wednesday 55-60 and in third place in the AL Central. “I like the way we are doing things. I think we are going to end up in a good place really soon.”
The day after
The Tigers placed Baddoo on the 7-day concussion injured list and Hill on the 10-day injured list with bruised ribs after their eighth-inning collision partly overshadowed Tuesday’s 9-4 victory.
Baddoo is also nursing other soreness, but “there’s been no other diagnosis of an injury other than he hurts like hell,” said manager A.J. Hinch.
Hill took the worst impact of the collision, Hinch said. This is the 25-year-old’s second IL stint of the season caused by a defensive effort, following a right shoulder sprain he sustained while making an impressive catch in Detroit on June 9.
“He is probably the most positive and upbeat guy in our clubhouse.” Hinch said. “So he’s handling it fine. I think the rest of us around him that are wanting so badly for him to showcase his talents, to establish himself as part of our team now and into the future … The people around him are very bummed for him.”
Hinch later added: “He’s either the most unlucky player that I’ve been around in terms of the injury bug, or simply a guy that will put his body through anything. Whether it’s a wall or Akil.”