Pirates newcomer Joyce looking to rebound

Rob Biertempfel
| Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, 1:06 p.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Only four years removed from being an All-Star, outfielder Matt Joyce last season found himself on the brink of obscurity.

Joyce played in just 93 games with the Los Angeles Angels and batted .174 with a paltry .272 on-base percentage.

The Angels, who had traded late-inning reliever Kevin Jepsen to get Joyce in December 2014, made no effort to re-sign Joyce after one season.

“It's the most frustrating thing in the world to fail at something you've worked so hard at,” Joyce said. “But for me, it's fuel to the fire.”

Joyce, 31, signed a minor league deal with the Pirates and reported on Saturday morning to spring training camp. Although he is a non-roster player, Joyce has a great chance to make the Opening Day roster as the fourth outfielder.

“I'd always seen him as a baseball player and a guy who was more than just a contributor,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

In 2011, Joyce parlayed a fantastic first half with the Tampa Bay Rays — he hit .470 with seven home runs that May — into a berth on the American League All-Star team. He ended the season with a .277 average and an .825 OPS.

His performance dipped over the next three seasons, then crashed last year. This past offseason, Joyce went to the Dominican Winter League to rediscover his swing.

“I feel like I'm in a really good spot,” Joyce said.

With the Rays, Joyce did a bit of pregame work at first base. He wants to do even more this spring with the Pirates.

“We have no problem looking at that opportunity,” Hurdle said.

Notes: Infielders Josh Harrison and Josh Bell arrived Saturday morning. The only absentees from the 40-man roster are Gregory Polanco, Mike Morris, Alen Hanson and Harold Ramirez. The deadline for position players to report is Monday, and the first full-squad workout will be Tuesday. ... There will be a total of 63 players in camp, including non-roster invitees.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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