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Pirates notebook: Joyce signing adds depth in outfield

| Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, 12:06 p.m.
The Angels' Matt Joyce warms up in the on-deck circle against the Mariners on July 11, 2015, in Seattle.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Veteran outfielder Matt Joyce, who on Thursday agreed to a minor league contract, would seem to have a good chance to win a bench job with the Pirates during spring training.

Joyce, 31, is coming off the worst season of his eight-year career. In 93 games with the Los Angeles Angels, he hit .174 with a .564 OPS.

Despite his recent struggles, Joyce has a good track record. With the Tampa Bay Rays from 2012 to '14, he hit a combined .243 with 44 home runs and a .749 OPS.

Adept in both corner spots, Joyce could be a good backup to the starting trio of Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco. The Pirates' other outfield options include utilityman Sean Rodriguez, Josh Harrison (the everyday second baseman) and Jake Goebbert.

Doc in the house

NBC Sports hockey announcer Doc Emrick was in the clubhouse to gather notes about the Pirates. Emrick, a longtime Pirates fan, will broadcast an inning with Root Sports this spring and hopes to do the same sometime during the regular season.

“I won't get back down until early March, so this was my one chance to see a few people,” Emrick said. “I'm socializing, but I'm also gathering some material to work on.”

Emrick isn't sure yet when he'll jump in the Pirates' broadcast booth. He knows the job will be a lot different from doing a hockey game.

“You need to be able to carry on a conversation as pitches go on,” Emrick said. “There can be a lot of time between pitches, so you have to not drive the people at home nuts.”

Emrick does not plan to stay neutral during the broadcast — he plans to wear his Pirates cap.

“I'm not allowed to cheer during the network (hockey) games,” Emrick said. “But for this one, I am.”

Hughes plays it safe

Reliever Jared Hughes will be the first Pirates player to wear a new, lightweight protective headgear this spring.

Boombang, a California-based company that's working with MLB and the Players' Association, will visit camp Sunday and use a 3-D scanner to custom fit the visor to Hughes' head. Hughes will test drive the gear during Grapefruit League games.

“I did a list of why I would use it, and the pros outweighed the cons by far,” Hughes said. “The cons were it might look goofy, or people might tease me. That's all superficial stuff. The pros are it could save my life.”

In a game in August against the St. Louis Cardinals, Hughes narrowly avoided being drilled in the face by a line drive off Stephen Piscotty's bat.

“I throw one pitch a lot — a sinker down in the zone — and it gets hit on the ground. Sometimes it gets hit hard right back at me,” Hughes said. “If I wear a (protective) visor, it will give me a little more confidence to throw down in the zone, like, ‘Hey, hit it right back at me. I'm all right.' It's like a hitter wearing a helmet in the box.”

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

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