Joyce is making a Play for Roster Spot

 

 
 
Matt Joyce came into this Spring Training knowing that he would be playing in front of a home town crowd this spring. Added to that mix was the excitement and anticipation of fighting for a roster spot as either the right fielder, or as an outfield option for the team in the 2009 season. But the first couple of weeks were not kind to Joyce as he was fighting off some tendinitis and a severe ankle sprain suffered during the first weeks of camp.  But he fought long and hard to get back on the field for the Rays, and so far he has impressed the right people to get a late spring look-see from the Rays coaching staff.

Last Sunday against the New York Yankees, he came up and ripped a ball long and deep into the teeth of the wind that did not have enough to sail out of the ballpark, but the sound off his bat made an impression on Rays Manager Joe Maddon, and he wanted to see more of the young outfielder the Rays traded  14-game winner Edwin Jackson for during the off season.  Joyce did not disappoint in his second at bat either. Well, he did strike out, but not before leveling the bat on a hanging breaking ball and sending it almost into the Rays clubhouse and offices off of right field. the unfortunate thing is he pulled it just foul before finally swinging at a third strike.
 

But it showed the promise and the power that the scouting report had documented on the young player, who is still developing his power game. But with this weeks announcement that fellow outfielder Justin Ruggiano was optioned to the minor league camp, it might signal a different viewpoint on the Rays upcoming problem with B J Upton missing the first road trip of the year while he rehabs from his off season shoulder surgery. Could the Rays now be thinking of maybe using Joyce instead of Ruggiano and give him some more time to stake his claim to a 25-man active roster spot after Upton’s return?
 
 
 

Well the Rays quickly let him show his stuff as he was the starting center fielder for the Rays versus the Detroit Tigers match up this week in Lakeland. It was the first time he has faced his former team since his trade, and he was excited to just be back on the field again.  Maddon made a comment before the game to the St. Petersburg Times that Joyce “realistically, still has time” to prove he’s healthy enough to  maybe change some minds and even break Spring Training as the extra outfielder.  One reason why Joyce is in center
field tonight this is a great opportunity to test him out there a little bit.

 

 
 

“He does, realistically, he still has time (to make the team),” Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times, “Being healthy and getting him out  there enough, and us feeling comfortable that he is beyond the risk of injuring himself more. So we have to test him a little bit and get him out there, play and get some at-bats. I’ve really enjoyed his at bats, and I think he has a special swing.” As of Friday’s afternoon game against the Twins Joyce was batting only .182, with only 2 hits in 11 at bats. But he did hit a RBI single in the fifth inning of that game, and also walked on 7 pitches in another at bat against the Tigers. He also showed some speed on the bases getting his first steal of the season during the same game.

 
 
 

Maddon, for one, wants to see Joyce field. He’s never seen him do so in a game, other than a few stray innings last year when Joyce played for the Tigers. Maddon has heard the stories about his  rocket arm, and saw him play in bits and pieces earlier this spring. “We want to try him at different spots,”  Maddon added, ” We know how we feel about his arm, so all these things are there…And yes, he is still in the running for at the end of camp.”  He started at Designated Hitter on Friday’s game against the Minnesota Twins and went 1-2, with his second single of the spring. But he did not remain in the lineup long after James Shields got shelled by the Twins for 12 runs on 11 hits in that contest.

 
 
                  
 
 
Joyce made only one appearance in Saturday’s contest against the Cincinnati Reds coming in to pinch hit for Designated Hitter Pat Burrell in the eighth inning. Unfortunately, he  struck out in that at bat to lower his spring batting average to .167. No plans have been announced yet as to his next appearance, but it could be during Sunday’s contest against the Reds in another one of the Rays multiple home-and-home series this Spring.  Time is running out for Joyce to make his bat stick in the minds of Rays coaching staff memebers and front office personnel.



Even though the Rays offcial roster does not have to be set before next Sunday, you can be sure they will make a decision on Joyce before they leave for Philadelphia for their last two games at Citizens Bank Park on April 3rd and 4th. I have a feeling that the Rays are going to give Joyce every opportunity to make them change their minds and keep him up with the club this season. Now the decision is up to Joyce to see if he up to the challenge.
 
 

Photo credits:  1) www.detroittigers.com
                       2) www.tbo.com ( Brian Cassella )
                       3) www.raysbaseball.com
 

10 Comments

Is there anything better then having the chance to play the game you love in front of your home town fans? Jerry Remy loved that when he played for the Red Sox and I hope that Rocco Baldelli feels the same way!

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Seems like a guy named “Joyce” would know a thing or two about bringing happiness to a team… or is that just my penchant for finding literary connections in all things mundane?
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

I can personally so there is no better thing in the universe. I always looked forward to play near home. My senior year in college we played in Tampa against the University of Miami, and even though we got beat that week then tied LSU the next weekend, we ended up 9-1-1 for the year.
Nothing better than a home crowd cheering for you during the game.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Well Jeff,
He is no “Shelly ” Duncan, but he does smack the daylights out of that little sphere during B P and handle it like an egg in the outfield.
I want to than Alan’s team again for him, he will be well taken care of now.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Rays Renegade – you probably already know this but the Tampa Bay Buccs are going to the play the Patriots in London on October 25th! hmm….wonder if that would be a good time to visit my friends in London??

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Really? they’re playing in London? Why?
(A really confused) Canuck

It should be a great final week of spring training as players like Joyce attempt to secure their “spot”. This should be a very exciting baseball season…regardless of who wins.

Scott
http://fotr.mlblogs.com

I actually do not follow the Bucs. If I want to see some true football played in Tampa, I would go to a USF game.
They play with more passion and have a better chance to win.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Why wouldn’t they play in London, Malcom Glazer who owns the team also owns Manchester United, which is one of the Premier Leagues super teams in England.
I guess he can also sell a few jerseys, probably sell out of all his number 55 jerseys now that he has dumped Derrick Brooks.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I agree with you Scott.
There are a lot of huge decision that are going to be made here in the next 7 days with players and also some veterans maybe being released, traded or some minor league surprises.
It is the second best time of the year, the time of a “real” fresh start to the game at the beginning of the season.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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