MINNEAPOLIS -- Right fielder Brennan Boesch's recent troubles at the plate were enough for Tigers manager Jim Leyland to slide him down in his batting order on Monday.
Leyland hit Boesch seventh instead of fifth in Detroit's series opener against the Twins. Leyland slotted Alex Avila in the No. 5 spot behind cleanup hitter Prince Fielder.
Boesch entered the contest with just one hit in his last 10 at-bats. His struggles were encapsulated in a pinch-hit appearance in Saturday's 2-1 loss at Texas, with Boesch grounding out on the first pitch he saw from the Rangers' Mike Adams.
Leyland said he doesn't believe hitting behind Fielder is the problem for Boesch. The right fielder is hitting .250 on the season with 11 home runs and 48 RBIs, but he hasn't homered since July 22. His only two extra-base hits this month came against Cleveland on Aug. 4.
No structural damage in Villarreal's right elbow
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Tigers received some good news regarding Brayan Villarreal on Monday. An MRI revealed no structural damage in the reliever's right elbow, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said.
Villarreal experienced weakness in the elbow after throwing 18 pitches on Sunday against the Rangers.
"The MRI showed basically some inflammation in and around the flexor where it attaches," Rand said. "There's no major structural damage there. It's something that we just have to try to get quiet."
Rand said Villarreal would be examined by Dr. John A. Steubs, the Twins' director of medical services, then be treated symptomatically until he's ready to pitch again. The right-hander likely won't make an appearance in Detroit's three-game series with the Twins, manager Jim Leyland said.
"We have this series and then an off-day [Thursday], so we'll probably back him off," Leyland said. "Pitch him on Friday. There's nothing wrong."
Villarreal said he initially felt the weakness shortly after the All-Star break. He has posted a 2.41 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings, but has struggled lately. The 25-year-old has surrendered five runs on five hits in 2 1/3 innings, spanning his last three appearances.
"He doesn't have a complaint of pain," Rand said. "It's a complaint of fatigue. So we just have to give him a couple of days and treat him symptomatically until we feel comfortable about him playing catch again."
Raburn's sprained thumb steadily improving
MINNEAPOLIS -- Outfielder Ryan Raburn is steadily progressing in his rehab from a right thumb sprain, Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said.
Raburn, who is hitting .172 in 63 games, is in Lakeland, Fla., continuing to work toward his return. Rand said on Monday that Raburn's thumb has improved.
"We started to do a little swinging -- gripping the bat," Rand said. "Not hitting, basically just working on gripping, dry swinging."
Raburn was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 5, retroactive to Aug. 1. He suffered the injury during the team's road series in Cleveland July 24-26, but Detroit initially didn't expect it to be enough to keep Raburn out.
Righty Putkonen to replace lefty Below in 'pen
MINNEAPOLIS -- Detroit optioned left-hander Duane Below to Triple-A Toledo following Monday's 9-3 loss to the Twins. The Tigers will recall right-hander Luke Putkonen from Toledo before Tuesday's game against Minnesota.
Below posted a 3.88 ERA in 46 1/3 innings over 27 games. The 26-year-old struggled when called on in Monday's loss, giving up three runs on three hits in one inning.
"He really hasn't gotten that much opportunity to be sharp, to be honest with you, with the role he's in," manager Jim Leyland said. "So we're going to send him down, get him working, and hopefully sharpen him up a little bit.
"It's a little unfair to ask a guy to do sometimes what we ask him to do. But at the same time, when you're in the Major Leagues, you have to be able to do that. You have to be able to come in -- it's 5-1 -- you have to be able to hold it a little bit. He struggled with that a little bit. So we're just making a move."
Putkonen scuffled in his first stint with Detroit earlier this season, recording an 8.59 ERA in six games. But he's 2-2 with a 4.68 ERA for Toledo and hasn't given up a run in his last 11 innings.
"He's been throwing pretty well," Leyland said. "He's a multiple-inning guy. We just felt like it was necessary."
Miguel Cabrera needs one RBI to become the first Tiger to drive in 100 in five straight seasons since Charlie Gehringer in 1936, according to STATS LLC.
Detroit entered Monday's game second in the American League with 936 strikeouts and 8.29 strikeouts per nine innings, the highest rate in club history.
Rangers righty Yu Darvish's victory against the Tigers on Sunday made him the first rookie pitcher to defeat Detroit three times in one season since 1999, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Seattle's Freddy Garcia and Toronto's Roy Halladay both went 3-0 against the Tigers that year.
Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.