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Clearwater, Fla. — Manager Brad Ausmus had some empathy for outfielder Steven Moya and shortstop Dixon Machado, who were optioned to Triple-A Toledo on Saturday.

“It’s never good news when you are sent down, but they both were very good about it,” he said. “It can be frustrating. Players feel like they are making strides and getting closer, but the carrot seems to be dangling a little too far out in front of them.”

Moya especially made a strong showing this spring.

“He’s definitely made strides and he’s trying to make strides,” Ausmus said. “He wants to get better. He wants to be more of a well-rounded hitter and he takes pride in achieving that goal.”

Moya struggled in the early part of last season but finished strong and carried it into winter ball. He has worked hard on plate discipline, in particular. In 30 at-bats this spring, he fanned five times.

“This spring it looked like he’s really worked on some things, including making contact,” Ausmus said. “It’s going to come down to his ability to make contact because he has the power at the Major-League level.”

The left-handed hitting Moya hit four home runs this spring, including one off Pirates lefty specialist Tony Watson and another off Astros closer Ken Giles. He also rapped a pair of two-strike hits off Blue Jays knuckleballer RA Dickey.

Moya, though, didn’t have much chance of making the 25-man roster, especially once the Tigers signed Justin Upton. Same for Machado, who played well in Detroit in the final six weeks of last season filling in for the injured Jose Iglesias.

“We just want them to go down and do well,” Ausmus said. “If they go down and play well, they force our hand, which is a good thing for us and a good thing for them…As we told all the players we’ve sent down, don’t be concerned about what’s happening here (at the big-league level). Go down and do your work, get better and be ready.

“Put yourself in position so if something happens and we need a player, and we call down and ask who’s ready – be that guy.”

Twitter @cmccosky

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