Esmerling Vasquez had minimum success as a reliever in the majors, but Minnesota believe he was miscast.

The Twins see Vasquez's future is in the rotation.

After 141 relief appearances over three seasons with Arizona, Vasquez made his first major league start Sunday, a 6-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals.

"Vasquez was good," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He misfired a little there in the second inning and threw some balls to the backstop. He had one bad inning early but then he settled down OK. He gave us a chance to win. We'll take that and go forward.

"He pitched pretty good for his first start in the big leagues. I thought he handled himself well. He got us into the sixth, I think with a chance to win and that's what you're hoping for."

Vasquez (0-1) allowed five runs on seven hits and three walks in 5 2-3 innings. Vasquez's contract was purchased Saturday from Triple-A Rochester, where he was 9-6 with a 2.78 ERA with 98 strikeouts and 39 walks in 100 1/3 innings. He made eight starts and 23 relief appearances.

"We had thought of him as a reliever, but they put him in the rotation there (Rochester) and he's been winging it," Gardenhire said. "He can throw in the upper 90s. We're excited. As a starter he probably settles in there a little different. The guy's got a great arm. For him, it's an opportunity. That's why you call them up here, to get a chance to look at them."

The Twins claimed Vasquez last September off the waiver wire.

"I feel OK for my first start," Vasquez said. "I don't really feel anything bad. I was struggling a little with my command in the second inning, but I felt OK. It's great being a starting pitcher."

Tony Abreu drove in three runs as Royals won to avoid a three-game sweep.

Abreu's three RBIs matched his career high, set on Sept. 18, 2007 while with Arizona at Colorado.

"He's got some clutch hits," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He had some great at-bats, really was huge offensively for us. I would gather to say he's been more of a clutch hitter than a good hitter. I mean he's hitting .300, but the majority of his hits have either tied ball games or given us the lead. He's done a great job for us."

Abreu, appearing in his eighth game since his Aug. 8 promotion from Triple-A Omaha, delivered a two-run two-out second inning single, scoring Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. Salvador Perez, who walked to lead off the inning, scored the first run of the inning on Eric Hosmer's sacrifice fly.

Abreu's two-out sixth inning single scored Hosmer, who had doubled, and broke a 4-4 tie. Abreu is hitting .344 with seven RBIs.

Greg Holland struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth to log his 10th save in 12 chances. He is 10 for 10 in save situations since the Royals traded closer Jonathan Broxton on July 31 to Cincinnati.

The Twins jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Justin Morneau's groundout in the first and Chris Parmelee's homer in the next inning.

In the fifth inning, Billy Butler singled home David Lough, who had four hits in his first two big league games.

The Twins tied it in the sixth on a two-run single by Alexi Casilla on a full-count pitch with two out and the bases loaded against Tim Collins.

Collins (5-2) got a blown save, but also the win. Starter Luis Mendoza left with a 4-2 lead after five innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, throwing 84 pitches.

The Royals padded their lead in the eighth with a Lorenzo Cain run-producing double.

Notes: OF Josh Willingham, who leads the Twins with 33 home runs and 96 RBIs, was held out of the lineup with a tender hamstring. .... Twins RHP P.J. Walters, who missed 70 games with shoulder inflammation, will make his first start Wednesday at Chicago since June 13. He was 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in seven starts before the injury.