Tigers send Moya back to improve defense

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Steven Moya struggled on defense but there are no plans to move him to first base.

Detroit – You can’t play tentatively. That is true at the professional level in probably every sport, and it is especially true in baseball.

If there is a lesson for Steven Moya to take out of his latest stint with the Tigers, it’s exactly that.

“Part of it was he didn’t want to make mistakes and as a result you become a little cautious,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “That sometimes can work in the opposite direction.”

Moya was sent back to Toledo after the game Saturday night, making room for Justin Upton, who returned from bereavement leave. Tyler Collins, who was called up before the game Friday, will take over in right field until J.D. Martinez gets back off the disabled list.

“We want Moya to go down and work on some stuff,” Ausmus said. “This gives Collins an opportunity to play and it gives Moya a chance to work on some stuff in a less stressful environment.”

Moya was called up on June 17 after Martinez fractured a bone in his right elbow. He hit .355 with four home runs in his first eight games. In the next eight, he hit .115 with one homer and 15 strikeouts in 28 plate appearances.

He was 1 for his last 16, 3 for his last 26, before being sent down.

The offensive slide corresponded with a shocking regression in his defensive efficiency. He was slow to get to balls hit in front of him, turning several singles into doubles. He misplayed or moved awkwardly on balls he had to track laterally or back to the wall.

Ausmus on Gose: ‘He wants to play baseball’

The final straw may have come Friday night. He slow-played a broken-bat blooper by Jarrod Dyson into a double and then allowed two runs to score going tentatively back to the wall and missing a hard-hit ball by Salvador Perez.

His confidence seemed to wane with every ball hit to him. The shocking part was he'd always been considered a passable defensive outfielder. The problems that surfaced in Detroit were not present in the minor leagues.

Presumably, Tigers roving outfield instructor Gene Roof, who has spent many hours with Moya, will be in Toledo this week to work with him again. The mission will be to rebuild his confidence and get him back to attacking baseballs aggressively on the defensive side as he would in the batter’s box.

At the present time, Ausmus said, there has been no organizational discussion about moving Moya to first base.

“No, not that I am aware of,” Ausmus said.

So, if Moya wants to get back to the big leagues, he’s going to have to figure it out.

“You never want to struggle at the Major League level,” Ausmus said Friday night. “There are a lot more eyes on you. It’s not development at this level. We’re here to win. In that sense, it can be tough for a young player. But Moya works his tail off. He will get better.”

Keeping the faith

His patience may be thinning, but Ausmus has not lost faith in left-handed reliever Kyle Ryan’s ability to get left-handed hitters out.

Ryan gave up RBI singles to lefties Jarrod Dyson and Eric Hosmer Saturday night. And in 60 plate appearances, lefties are hitting .327 against him with two doubles and two home runs.

“The one to Hosmer was against a drawn-in infield, a chopper that got through,” Ausmus said. “The pitch to Dyson was up, a pitch Major League hitters can hit. The reality is, you are talking about a couple of outings.

“We don’t lose faith that quickly in this game. If you do, you’re going to drive yourself nuts.”

Still, the Tigers sent Ryan down to Toledo earlier this season because he wasn’t getting lefties out. He may be treading on thin ice again.

Around the horn

How hot is Nick Castellanos? He had two doubles and a triple Sunday. He is hitting .318 in his last 27 games and he’s had multiple hits in eight of his last 22.

… Tigers right-hander Warwick Saupold, still on the disabled list with a groin injury, will begin a rehab assignment in Toledo Monday. “It’s been a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “Kind of frustrating to be on the training table every day.”


Series: Three games, Monday-Wednesday, Comerica Park, Detroit.

First pitch: 7:10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 1:10 p.m. Wednesday.

TV/radio: FSD/97.1-FM all three games.

Probables: Monday – LHP Matt Boyd (0-2, 5.77) vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco (4-7, 5.22). Tuesday – RHP Anibal Sanchez (5-10, 6.75) vs. LHP Tommy Milone (2-2, 5.23). Wednesday – RHP Justin Verlander (9-6, 3.91) vs. RHP Ervin Santana (3-8, 4.12).

Scouting report

Boyd: Boyd has been up and down from Toledo all season, but he was excellent in his last start for the Tigers. On July 9, in a 3-2 win over Toronto, Boyd went five innings (86 pitches), giving up four hits and one earned run. Alas, he did not get the decision.

Nolasco: His misery has matched the Twins’ this season, and during one stretch in May Minnesota lost in five straight start by the right-hander, and six of seven. He leads the Twins in strikeouts (85) and innings (108.2).