ST. PETERSBURG — Matt Joyce was the designated hitter in 17 games in 2013, and that number should grow this year since the Rays are going to try the old designated hitter by committee approach.
Outfielders Wil Myers, David DeJesus, Desmond Jennings and Joyce will rotate through the DH spot as manager Joe Maddon tries to find at-bats for all the outfielders as well as reduce the number of games Myers and Jennings play on Tropicana Field’s AstroTurf. Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist will take a turn or two at DH when Maddon wants to give the two infielders a day off their legs and still keep their bats in the lineup.
Like a lot of players, Joyce is not a big fan of the DH role. He hit .155 with two home runs and five RBIs in 58 at-bats last season. His career numbers are a .182 average with four home runs and 14 RBIs in 121 at-bats.
When asked last week for his thoughts on what will likely be an expanded DH role, Joyce paused, smiled and laughed before saying, “Let me see how I can handle this. I’m going to take the runaround here.”
He paused some more.
“What I think doesn’t matter,” he said. “I think at the end of the day the team wants to win and they’re going to do what’s best for the team and for me, I’m part of the team. I’m going to do whatever it takes for the team to win and be successful.”
Joyce would rather be an everyday outfielder, playing against right-handed and left-handed pitchers. He’s far more effective against righties (.260/.354/.481) than lefties (.194/.270/.322).
Joyce, who said he added 20 pounds this offseason, said he will take those DH at-bats if it means being in the lineup.
“I’m looking forward to any opportunity I get to help the team win,” he said. “At the end of the day I’d rather DH than be on the bench. That’s what it comes down to.”
Joyce has not been able to develop a successful in-game routine as a DH. He said it’s more mental than physical, often carrying a bad at-bat into the next at-bat.
“My biggest thing is I’m always so hard on myself, but I expect a lot of myself, and I know what I’m capable of, so sometimes it works against me,” he said. “This year I’m just going to relax and enjoy myself and try to put up some good at-bats. We got a great team here, so we’re excited about that. What more could you ask for?”
Sometimes it just happens: Jeremy Hellickson tried to throw this offseason through discomfort in his right elbow that would surface one week and disappear the next.
It wasn’t until the elbow locked up on Hellickson during his second bullpen session that he called Rays head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield and flew to St. Petersburg for tests that revealed loose bodies in the elbow. They were removed through arthroscopic surgery. Hellickson is expected to miss the first six to eight weeks of the season.
Matt Moore said there was nothing unusual with Hellickson associating the discomfort with his arm adjusting to throwing after a two-month layoff.
“You have a lot of tendons, a lot of ligaments, a lot of muscles that connect to things in there. All that stretches,” Moore said. “There’s going to be certain points when they get sore. They get stretched out. They feel too tight. A lot of different things feel close to the same pain, sometimes. So you’re thinking, OK I’m getting locked up. It could be a tight muscle that’s locking up. It could be debris or things of that nature. If something’s going to go wrong there’s nothing we could have done to prevent it.”
Fortune favors the bald: For the third consecutive spring, the Rays will shave their heads to raise awareness and support the Pediatric Foundation’s “Cut for a Cure” program.
The Rays will go under the clippers March 16 at Charlotte Sports Park before a game with the Red Sox.
Noteworthy: Baring any rainouts this spring, the Rays will play their 500th Grapefruit League game March 28 against the Tigers in Lakeland.