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Joyce wins final bench spot

Posted Apr 1, 2009 by Marc Lancaster

Updated Apr 1, 2009 at 04:09 PM

PORT CHARLOTTE—Matt Joyce has secured the final spot on the Rays’ bench, and the Tampa native could be the Opening Day center fielder.

Joyce, an Armwood High graduate, overcame a bout with tendinitis in his lower leg that kept him sidelined throughout much of spring training to close strong and beat out Justin Ruggiano for a spot on the 25-man roster.

It could be a very temporary job, as B.J. Upton is expected to come off the disabled list for the Rays home opener April 13 and Joyce likely would be the player sent down at that time, but the 24-year-old doesn’t mind. He’ll be on an Opening Day roster for the first time in his career.

“It’s definitely satisfying,” Joyce said. “It’s a great feeling to break camp with these guys and come back from what’s happened. ... I kind of knew that I had to show them I could play and I deserved to play with them, and it worked out that way. I’m very fortunate.”

Nailing down the final opening for a position player left the Rays with two roster spots to sort out, and there is no resolution in sight.

Jeff Niemann and Jason Hammel, the contenders for the fifth starter’s job, were told this afternoon they will not travel to Philadelphia with the team but will instead stay back and pitch Sunday in minor-league camp. Lance Cormier, who is in the mix for the long relief job in the bullpen with Niemann and Hammel, will accompany the team to Philadelphia, but that is no guarantee he’ll make the final cut.

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