Joyce is making a Play for Roster Spot
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.
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.