Rays' Joyce Looks To Establish Himself





ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — Much of the talk about the Rays has to do with the outfielder that's leaving, Carl Crawford, and the one that's expected to arrive at some point during the 2011 season, Desmond Jennings.

But they have another, one who is hoping to establish himself with a full-time gig this season, Matt Joyce.

Whether he gets a chance to play right field or take Crawford's place in left, Joyce is going into 2011 determined to prove he is ready for regular action.

"Absolutely, it's definitely something that I'm looking forward to and I know I'll be ready when the time comes,'' said Joyce, acquired in December 2008 from Detroit for Edwin Jackson.

The Tigers originally drafted Joyce in the 12th round of the 2005 draft out of Florida Southern.

Basically, Joyce has two hurdles.

One is proving that he can hit lefthanders as well in the big leagues as he did at Triple-A Durham last season, logging a .323/.364/.581 line, though in limited opportunities (31 at-bats). Both are small sample sizes, but in 25 at-bats against lefties in the majors in 2010, he had just two hits.

"I don't think there's any doubt in my mind that I can hit lefties,'' Joyce said. "You've got to be ready to face those guys like Cliff Lee and next year I think I will be.''

The other is staying on the field, as a spring training elbow strain led to him spending a large chunk of the season in the minors.

"I've got to make sure I'm coming into spring training healthy and ready to play every day, that's going to be my main focus,'' said Joyce, 26.

When given the opportunity, Joyce was productive for the Rays, with 28 of his 54 hits for extra bases and 28 of his 40 RBIs with two outs. Overall, he hit .241/.360/.477 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs in 77 games.

COOL RAYS

• Outfielder/first baseman Leslie Anderson, the Cuban free agent signee who will have a chance to compete for a 2011 job, was the star of the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars game, hitting a walkoff homer in the ninth.

• Senior adviser Don Zimmer and assistant to the pitching coach Stan Boroski agreed to new contracts, meaning the entire major-league coaching staff returned intact. Zimmer will be in his 63rd year of professional baseball.