Detroit — Steven Moya faced promising Twins youngster Jose Berrios a few times in the minor leagues.
“He struck me out,” Moya said.
So is that why you weren’t in Monday’s lineup?
“I don’t know,” Moya said. “I got him, too!”
Moya wasn’t in the starting lineup for the series opener against the Minnesota Twins, after having a heck of a season-debut series over the weekend in Baltimore. But Moya is thrilled to still be on the roster.
Before he was called up from Triple-A Toledo prior to the Orioles series, it was assumed he’d be going down when Cameron Maybin was activated. Manager Brad Ausmus admitted as much Monday.
Instead, struggling speedster Anthony Gose got the demotion.
Moya stayed, thanks to six hits in 15 at-bats in Baltimore.
“It makes me happy, and it makes me want to keep working harder and harder every time to stay and help this team win,” Moya said.
“Every game, it’s a game of adjustments. I just made mine to get better and be a better hitter.”
Whatever Moya is doing, it’s working.
He had nine homers, 11 doubles and 24 RBIs in 31 games with the Mud Hens before his promotion.
It’s a carryover from his showing in the Dominican Winter League, in which he batted .298/.350/.466 with four homers and 27 RBIs in 35 games.
Moya, who’s been playing nonstop for over a year now, said he picked up some good techniques in winter ball, though he didn’t care to get into specifics. His stance is more spread out these days, and he’s smashing the ball — as he did on a triple in Baltimore. It came off the bat, per MLB Statcast, at better than 112 mph, harder than even Miguel Cabrera’s mammoth home run.
Has he ever hit a ball harder than that?
“Yeah,” Moya, 24, said, matter-of-factly. “I just try to hit it hard. I don’t care how hard. I just try to hit it hard.”
In Baltimore, he hit the ball a lot harder than some of the Tigers regulars have all season. His six hits matched James McCann’s output for the season. And it was enough to convince the Tigers to give Gose the breather in Toledo, where he can work on cutting down the strikeouts — and maybe start laying down a bunt or two.
Ausmus said Gose might not be down in Toledo long, but that likely will depend entirely on Moya, a former top Tigers prospect who slipped a little out of favor the last couple of seasons before emerging in a big way this spring.
The Tigers have been so impressed with Moya, they’re willing to shortchange their outfield defense to keep him. The Tigers now just have the one regular center fielder, in Maybin, with Justin Upton serving as the second one, even though his experience outside of the corners is limited. Gose is a plus defender.
Speaking of Upton, who’s still piling up the strikeouts at a record pace, Ausmus has thought about giving him the day off a lot recently. But then Upton would have a plate appearance, every game it seemed, where Ausmus would think he’s turning the corner.
So he was back out there Monday, and Moya was sitting.
“I keep thinking I’m gonna give him a few days, then he does something,” Ausmus said of Upton. “He keeps doing just enough than I think he’s getting close.”
Ausmus said he continues to respect the track records of the corner outfielders — Upton, a long track record, and J.D. Martinez, a shorter but impressive one.
So Moya is likely to be mostly the fourth outfielder, at least until further notice, or until Ausmus can’t live with the lack of production from the bottom of the order anymore. On days he doesn’t start, Moya also provides the Tigers a big, left-handed bat off the bench.
That’s still no small thing — just like Moya, the 6-foot-7, 260-pound dynamo who seems to be coming into his own.
“A lot of focus, a lot of work, and a lot of patience. A lot of everything to be consistent at it,” Moya said. “I do my best.”