To make room for Aoki on the roster, infielder Christian Colon was optioned to Triple-A Omaha.
Aoki had been out since June 21 with a strained left groin after batting .263 with a .326 on-base percentage in 68 games. He was obtained from Milwaukee during the offseason in a deal that sent pitcher Will Smith to the Brewers.
Aoki was expected to stay with Double-A Northwest Arkansas until at least the All-Star break, but when left fielder Alex Gordon sprained his right wrist, the outfield depth shrank.
Manager Ned Yost had originally insisted that Aoki would be not be recalled right away, but when it became apparent that Gordon's injury would keep him out of the Detroit series, the move seemed appropriate.
"Nori's been feeling good. We were going to try to make it through the All-Star break without him and get him some more at-bats, but with Gordy going down and only three outfielders, it kind of limits what you can do," Yost said.
Because Gordon was not put on the DL, veteran Raul Ibanez started in left field against the Tigers on Thursday night, and he had some problems in the Royals' 16-4 loss, going 0-for-4 and committing an error.
With Aoki back, Yost was able to put Lorenzo Cain back in center field and switch Jarrod Dyson from center to left. He also dropped Cain from the leadoff spot to second in the lineup.
Ibanez, signed to be a part-time player, had started eight of the 10 games -- either in right field or left -- played since he joined the club. He's struggled at the plate, going 3-for-31 with one home run.
"Raul's been going every single day, so we decided to get Nori back up here," Yost said.
Aoki played in three games for Northwest Arkansas and went 1-for-10.
Colon made his Major League debut with the Royals and went 4-for-12 in seven games, including two starts at second base.
Gordon, meantime, is biding his time. His injury will keep him from playing not only against the Tigers but in Tuesday's All-Star Game at Target Field.
"I feel good," Gordon said. "I feel like I could go out there and play, but the trainers are there for a reaso,n and the whole point was not to swing a bat and not re-aggravate it. So as much as I want to go out there and do it, this is what they think is best for the long haul."