Justin Upton returned to action but the Detroit Tigers made another switch to their outfield on Sunday.
Steven Moya, who had been platooning in right field, was optioned to Triple-A Toledo. Left-handed hitting Tyler Collins now becomes the platoon partner with switch-hitting Mike Aviles in right field.
Collins, who was called up from Toledo on Friday, will likely get the start against Minnesota right-hander Ricky Nolasco on Monday when the Tigers begin a three-game home series against the Twins. Collins had a ninth-inning single on Sunday, setting up Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s game-winning two-run homer in a 4-2 over Kansas City.
Detroit manager Brad Ausmus has been forced to improvise since slugger J.D. Martinez fractured his right elbow crashing into a wall in Kansas City in mid-June. Martinez has not yet started a rehab assignment as the bone continues to heal.
Moya showed a good power stroke shortly after being called up from the minors, hitting five homers in 11 games. But he had just four hits in his last 30 at-bats and he was even worse in the field. He grew increasingly tentative and misplayed numerous balls hit his way.
“We wanted to give Collins an opportunity to play a little bit and give Moya an opportunity to work on some stuff in a less stressful environment,” Ausmus said. “Part of it is he didn’t want to make a mistake. As a result, you become a little cautious.”
Upton was activated off the bereavement list prior to Sunday’s game and went hitless in four at-bats. But Saltalamacchia’s heroics made that a moot point.
“It felt good to do whatever I could to help the team,” said Saltalamacchia, who is batting .206.
The Tigers will send out left-hander Matt Boyd in the series opener. Boyd, who will be making his seventh start, is still seeking his first victory. He received a no-decision in his last outing, when he gave up one run on five hits in five innings at Toronto on July 9.
Boyd also had a no-decision in his only career start against the Twins last September, when he gave up four runs — two earned — on one hit in six innings.
Nolasco is 2-2 with a 4.23 ERA in seven career starts against the Tigers, including a loss and a no-decision this season. He has lost three of his last four outings, though he collected a win in his last start when he allowed three earned in six innings to Texas.
Overall, Nolasco is 4-7 with a 5.22 ERA.
“Obviously I’m not too happy about my (5.22) ERA. At the same time, I’m healthy,” he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I’ve been able to make every start. I’ve been able to give us a chance to stay in the game. That’s the job of a starting pitcher.”
Nolasco is one of the Twins veterans who could be dealt prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, though he’s owed a combined $25 million over the next two years and has struggled in recent years.
“Even if you’ve been around a while, I think it can be a distraction,” manager Paul Molitor said to MLB.com. “It’s easier said than done, but just go out there and play when you’re one of the people that might possibly get moved.”
The Twins will be seeking their first win over the Tigers this season. They were swept in a pair of three-game series in April and May.
Minnesota lost two of three to Cleveland over the weekend, including a 6-1 defeat on Sunday.