Remember Gustavo Nunez? It would be understandable if you didn’t recognize the name. Nunez was taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2011 Rule 5 Draft. The shortstop was placed on the 60-day disabled list with a right ankle injury back in January. Nunez injured the ankle while with the Detroit Tigers, and hadn’t fully recovered from the injury.
He finally made his 2012 debut today, making a rehab appearance for the GCL Pirates. Nunez hit leadoff, going 1-for-2 with a triple and two walks. He tripled in his second plate appearance. In his third appearance he walked, and then was picked off and caught stealing. Nunez was replaced with a pinch runner after drawing a walk in his fourth plate appearance.
As a Rule 5 pick, the Pirates will have to keep Nunez on the 25-man roster through the end of the year. However, because he’s missed so much time this year, the Pirates won’t have an easy time protecting him. You might think that his time on the disabled list this year benefits the Pirates. That’s not the case. Rule 5 picks must spend at least 90 days on the active roster in order to fulfill their eligibility requirements. Those days can’t include time in September.
There aren’t 90 days remaining in the regular season, but the timing of this rehab assignment allows the Pirates to hold off on bringing Nunez up to the majors until September. If they decide to keep him and add him to the active roster, he could provide the team with a good defensive middle infielder and a speedy option off the bench. However, because he wouldn’t have fulfilled the Rule 5 requirements, the Pirates would have to keep him on the active roster for 90 days in 2013, before they would be able to send him down to the minors.
I’d be surprised if he sticks on the 40-man roster all off-season. It might be easier to work out a deal with the Tigers over the off-season to keep him without the Rule 5 requirements.