Rule 5 selection Gustavo Nunez, the good glove, no stick shortstop that the Bucs claimed from Detroit in December, was the moving piece yesterday on the 40 man roster to clear room for new hurler AJ Burnett.
No, the FO didn't ship him back to the Tigers already. Instead, they moved him to the 60 day DL with a bum ankle. The injury doesn't seem to be a convenient, wink-wink excuse to keep the roster intact. Nunez hurt the joint last summer in AA ball, going down in early August. He was still rehabbing it when the Pirates drafted him.
The injury makes his selection even a little bit more bizarre. The 23 year old is a Pedro Ciriaco leather and wheels clone, and the Bucs cut Ciriaco loose during the off season. Nunez has only 34 games at the AA level, so keeping him on the roster for a full season was an iffy proposition to start with.
A Rule 5 player has to be on the 25 man roster for an entire season, and can't be optioned to the minors (although he can be traded). The loophole is that a player needs 90 consecutive days on the active roster if he's placed on the DL. And there's a little wiggle room built into that reg.
For example, if you have a Rule 5 player who has been on the roster for only 60 days in the season he was selected because of injury, he has to be on the active roster for 30 days in the following year after he's removed from the DL to satisfy the full season rule. Maybe the Pirates are now entertaining that thought with Nunez because of the ankle injury.
The Pirate system isn't exactly brimming with MLB ready shortstops. One scenario is to get Nunez back mid-season, stash him for 90 days, and add him to the organization in Altoona. It could work if the Bucs are out of the running in July or August.
His odds of making the team out of camp were probably slim. With Clint Barmes, a good glove man, set as the everyday shortstop, the Bucs were most likely looking for a back-up who could contribute a pinch hit or three off the bench for the big team coming out of Florida.
At any rate, Nunez to the DL was the obvious, and probably in the long run inevitable, move to make. We don't know what exactly his ankle injury is or how serious it is, except that it's carried over from last season. He's eligible to return in late April, and we'll check his status again then.