Tigers left-hander Robbie Ray and Twins right-hander Samuel Deduno will both be making just their second start of the season on Sunday in the rubber match between the two teams at Comerica Park.
Ray, who was acquired from the Nationals in the trade that sent Doug Fister to Washington in the offseason, made his Major League debut against the Astros on Tuesday. He was solid in his first career start, as he gave up just one run on five hits and a walk over 5 1/3 innings with five strikeouts.
Ray, though, said he needs to work on fixing his curveball, a new pitch after he scrapped his slider before the season. He said he had trouble with the curve in his first inning and has worked with pitching coach Jeff Jones to try to correct it.
"I'm just getting too long with it," Ray said. "I need to stay short."
Deduno, meanwhile, will be making his second start for a different reason, as he began the season in the bullpen. He fared fine in long relief, with a 2.89 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings, but he was called on to join the rotation after Mike Pelfrey was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a groin strain on May 2.
Deduno was saddled with a loss in his first start of the year against the Indians on Tuesday, as he went five innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on six hits and two walks with two strikeouts. He struggled early in the game, but he said he was able to improve his command as the game went along. Deduno added that wasn't too disappointed with his first start, and he believes he can build on it.
"I wasn't frustrated because it was my first start," Deduno said. "I missed a couple pitches up."
Twins: Mauer returns to the lineup
After missing five games with lower back spasms, Joe Mauer returned to the lineup on Saturday against Detroit, starting at designated hitter and batting third. He went 1-for-3 with a walk in Minnesota's 9-3 loss, but the Twins were relieved to see him avoid the 15-day disabled list.
"With backs, it's something you don't want to deal with too much," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "When you start feeling better, you always want to give it a few extra days. I've had it and we've all had it, and it's just not very fun. So I'm just happy to see him in here wanting to play."
Tigers: Sanchez, Putkonen aiming for May returns
Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez and long reliever Luke Putkonen are both slated for May returns. Sanchez threw a bullpen session on Friday and is aiming for a May 18 return from a lacerated right middle finger. Putkonen, recovering from right elbow inflammation, will likely just need one more rehab outing at Triple-A Toledo before coming back.
"Should be, yeah," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said when asked if Tuesday will be Putkonen's final rehab assignment. "If everything continues as it is right now."
• The Tigers honored manager Jim Leyland with a special pregame ceremony before Saturday's game against the Twins. Leyland went 700-597 in Detroit while leading the team to the World Series in 2006 and '12.
• Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson extended his hit streak to eight games with a single in the second inning on Saturday.
• According to Ausmus, outfielder Andy Dirks has started the very beginnings of baseball activities. Dirks is on the 60-day disabled list, recovering from microdisectomy surgery on his back. Ausmus said the average time for a return from the surgery is about three months, which would have Dirks back in action sometime in June.
• Minnesota rookie shortstop Danny Santana doubled in his first at-bat on Saturday, and he has hit safely in five of his first six career games.