Roger Mooney covers the Tampa Bay Rays for The Tampa Tribune, TBO.com and News Channel 8. He has covered the Rays since their first season in 1998, including 11 years for the Bradenton Herald. Roger has also covered Florida, South Florida and Florida State football, the Bucs and the Lightning.
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Mr. Joyce, meet Mr. Price
Posted Feb 25, 2010 by Roger Mooney
Updated Feb 25, 2010 at 06:35 PM
The first day hitters face live pitching in spring training is tough enough. Consider Thursday’s plight of Matt Joyce. He had to face David Price and Jeremy Hellickson.
“Awesome. This should be fun,” was Joyce’s reaction. “First time out I’ll see a lefty throwing 95 and Hellickson, who was the minor league pitcher of the year.”
Joyce just tracked Price’s pitches during the first time through the cage and swung at a few during his second round.
It’s not unusual for hitters to just stand in the cage during the first live batting practice session of the year. Former Rays Greg Vaughn wouldn’t swung during the first few rounds of live BP.
Why? Because pitchers have been throwing for a week while hitters have been swinging at pitching machines, soft-toss and offersing from coaches, which is referred to as “dead arm” BP.
It’s a bit of an adjustment when a hitter sees live pitching for the first time each year. Joyce found it a bit tougher than most since he’s a lefty hitter and he was watching Price throw 95 mph fastballs from the left-side that caught the edge of the plate.
“The first day you face pitching you feel like you never did it before,” Joyce said. “It gets better.”
Joyce did hit one of the more unusual foul balls you’ll ever see, thanks to a strong wind that blew toward the first base side of the field. Hellickson indicated Joyce was about to get a fastball inside, and Joyce turned on it. If he hit the pitch at Tropicana Field, it would have sailed over the Rays bullpen and into the crowd. On Thursday, the wind took the ball and carried it almost to the next field.
“I pulled it way foul,” Joyce said. “But it felt good. It felt good.”