Angels face left-hander in Seattle and Matt Joyce sits out

Written By kolimtiga on Rabu, 08 April 2015 | 12.56

It wasn't like a trip to the principal's office. Matt Joyce wasn't in trouble. But Angels Manager Mike Scioscia felt a need to summon the left fielder for a sit-down Tuesday afternoon to ease any concerns Joyce might have about not being in the lineup against the Seattle Mariners.

Joyce, acquired from Tampa Bay in the off-season, was a platoon player in six years with the Rays. He hoped to shed that label in Anaheim, and Scioscia said repeatedly this spring that Joyce would get a chance to start against some left-handers.

But in the second game of the season, with left-hander James Paxton pitching for Seattle, Joyce was on the bench and the right-handed Collin Cowgill was in left field for the Angels' 2-0 win in Safeco Field.

"He basically explained to me that it's early in the year and he wants to get some other guys at-bats," Joyce said. "Paxton is tough on lefties. He's a tough left-handed pitcher in general.

"I wouldn't say I'm really surprised. For the last week, I haven't really been dialed in. If I was squaring up a lot of balls and was feeling good, I'd be a lot more surprised than I am. But that's the way the game goes sometimes."

Joyce is a .260 hitter with an .819 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in 1,863 at-bats against right-handers, including an 0 for 4 in Monday's season-opening loss to the Mariners. He's a .189 hitter with a .573 OPS in only 323 at-bats against left-handers.

The more Joyce struggled against left-handers in Tampa Bay, the less he played against them. And the less he played against them, the more he struggled. That Joyce couldn't hit left-handers became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"It's extremely tough" Joyce said of hitting left-handers when you don't face them often. "It's not anything I'm frustrated with. I'll take the at-bats against them as they come and just keep working, keep preparing, keep grinding. That's all you can do."

Tuesday night's start was only the 18th of Paxton's big league career, but the 26-year-old had already established himself as one of the game's best young left-handers, with a 9-4 record and 2.66 earned-run average.

Paxton has actually been tougher on right-handed hitters (.206 average against) than left-handed hitters (.233), but that statistical difference was negligible in Scioscia's eyes. Paxton would have been tough for Joyce.

"Tonight, no doubt, we want to match up against Paxton," Scioscia said. "It's not so much what Matt is or isn't doing."

How will Scioscia determine which left-handers Joyce plays against?

"It's a combination of the pitcher's stuff and numbers," Scioscia said. "There are left-handers who have those reverse splits, where their stuff doesn't match up well against left-handers. And some lefties are really nasty on lefties.

"There's going to be a statistical analysis along with a scouting eye. The bottom line is Matt is not purely a platoon player. At times, when he's swinging the bat well, he'll play against lefties and stay in lineup."

In the games he doesn't start, Joyce must be prepared to come off the bench late in the game to face the opponent's setup man or closer.

"Absolutely, I'm familiar with that, sitting for eight or nine innings and trying to face guys like Fernando Rodney or Mariano Rivera," Joyce said. "Typically, you don't make a good living off that, but sometimes it's what you have to do."

Word on Street

Closer Huston Street, who has represented himself since 2012, has retained one of his former agents, Alan Hendricks, to handle negotiations with the Angels on a contract extension now that the season has started.

"I'll still be heavily involved, but he'll be talking to the team on a day-to-day basis," said Street, who negotiated with General Manager Jerry Dipoto in spring training.

"I think it's the smartest thing for me to do on a number of levels. It will reduce distractions on a number of fronts."

Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

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