Tigers option hot-hitting Moya to Triple-A

Tigers option hot-hitting Moya to Triple-A

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Steven Moya's standout Spring Training with the Tigers has come to an end. The slugging outfielder, who made an early spring statement with four home runs in the first couple weeks, was optioned to Triple-A Toledo on Saturday morning, along with shortstop prospect Dixon Machado.

The moves reduce the Tigers' Spring Training roster to 41 players with a week to go in camp.

Though Moya didn't come to camp with a roster spot to win thanks to Justin Upton's arrival, the towering 24-year-old had something to prove after a learning experience of a 2015 season at Toledo. More than pure numbers, Moya wanted to show the improved pitch recognition and deliberate plate approach that led to an impressive winter ball season in the Dominican Republic.

"I just want to go up every single at-bat, don't miss in any one, be focused on each one, keep working hard," Moya said after his fourth home run of the spring on March 13.

The results brought back memories of his breakout 2014 Spring Training, but he also showed more maturity as a hitter. Moya hit .367 (11-for-30) with four homers and eight RBIs, yet struck out just five times. His damage included a line-drive home run off Pirates lefty specialist Tony Watson, an opposite-field homer off Astros closer Ken Giles and a two-hit game vs. Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on Thursday.

It was never going to win him a job on the Opening Day roster, barring injuries well beyond the nagging left hamstring strain that has slowed Victor Martinez. The Tigers have been steadfast on wanting him to carry forward his approach and play every day in Toledo, where he batted .240 (120-for-500) last year with 30 doubles, 20 homers, 74 RBIs and 162 strikeouts.

Still, this spring gives Tigers officials something to think about if and when they need to call up an outfielder to fill in during the season.

"He looks a lot more comfortable, a lot more confident," manager Brad Ausmus said of Moya earlier this month. "He's had good at-bats. He really has."

Like Moya, Machado's Spring Training was more about making an impression than winning a job, since Jose Iglesias blocks his path to the big leagues. While he struggled at the plate this spring, batting 6-for-28 with no extra-base hits, no walks and four strikeouts, he put on a defensive display with several ranging stops and grabs. In that sense, he showed confidence from his September stint filling in for Iglesias in Detroit.

The Tigers have planned all along on Machado starting at shortstop in Toledo rather than serving in a utility role in Detroit. He'll likely return to the big leagues if Iglesias has an injury that forces him to miss time.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.