BALTIMORE -- Prior to Wednesday's game, Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said the team was considering giving leftfielder Justin Upton a night off in the wake of his prolonged struggles. It will not come Thursday against the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles, however.
Though the team recalled hot-hitting prospect Steven Moya from Triple-A Toledo Thursday morning, prompting many to wonder if he would replace Upton in the lineup, both players are in Thursday's starting lineup for the series opener. Moya will play in left field and Upton will play in center as the Orioles look to defend an Orioles team with an AL-best 13-5 record at Camden Yards.
Earlier in the week, Ausmus said that Upton was willing to play in center, though he had not done so since the minors.
Moya, 24, was batting .310 with nine home runs and 24 RBIs in 31 games for the Mud Hens before being summoned to the big club, and like Upton, he struggled with strikeouts. Though Upton managed a double off dominant Max Scherzer in Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Nationals -- snapping an 0-for-19 slump in the process -- he struck out twice in his four at-bats. Upton, who signed a six-year, $132.75 million contract with the Tigers this offseason -- leads the league with 53 strikeouts.
Moya is a natural rightfielder, so it is unclear how much the Tigers intend to use him in left, but he could also provide a powerful left-handed bat off the bench should the Tigers choose to use him in that way. Either way, his production could come in handy against Orioles RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, against whom lefties have a .355 average this season.
For the Tigers, Mike Pelfrey takes the mound looking to salvage what has been a rough start. He is 0-4 with a 6.23 ERA and appears to be in danger of losing his spot in the rotation.
Keep in mind, the Tigers do have Daniel Norris in the bullpen to use if necessary, and the young left-hander can provide some length should Pelfrey struggle.
In a corresponding move to the Moya recall, LHP Blaine Hardy, who had not pitched since May 5, was optioned to Toledo.