Matt Joyce remains Angels' starting left fielder despite struggles

The Angels would like to trade for a left fielder, as you might have heard a few thousand times this season. Yet, when the first two big deals of this trading season were announced Thursday, the Angels were not involved, and Matt Joyce was still in left field.

“We need to make a lineup,” Manager Mike Scioscia said.

The Houston Astros, nipping on the heels of the Angels in the American League West, needed a starting pitcher. On Thursday, the Astros got Scott Kazmir, for two minor leaguers. He will look good alongside Dallas Keuchel, the American League starting pitcher in the All-Star game.

“Now they’ve got a one-two punch for sure, big time,” Angels pitcher Hector Santiago said.

Scioscia was not as impressed, at least not publicly.

“Houston was good yesterday,” he said. “They’re good today.”

The Angels do not need a starting pitcher. They are lukewarm about adding a third baseman, even with David Freese expected to sit out at least three weeks because of a broken finger. So, although the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired third baseman Aramis Ramirez on Thursday, the Angels shrugged.

They do need a left fielder. The on-base plus slugging of their left fielders is .583, the lowest for any major league team. Although the Angels have started six players in left field this season, Joyce has started 56 of their 95 games there, and he has started another 17 at designated hitter.

Joyce is batting .179, the only major league outfielder under .200 with at least 250 plate appearances. He went 0 for 2 in Thursday’s 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins, and he has no hits in his last 21 at-bats.

“There’s no doubt that he’s pressing,” Scioscia said, “absolutely no doubt.”

Said Joyce: “It’s obvious. When you’re used to being something and being successful, and you come out and put in the early work and stay late and put in the work after, and it still doesn’t show up in the game, it’s obviously frustrating. I’m doing everything I can.”

Joyce called it “a red flag” that he is getting pitches to hit and yet cannot seem to make solid contact with them.

“It’s a weird spot for me to be in,” he said. “I’ve never been in this much of a funk or struggle for this long.”

The Angels still need him in the lineup, Scioscia said, because of injuries and the need to balance veterans and youngsters.

Before the game, Scioscia skirted two questions about whether he would be disappointed if the Angels did not acquire a bat.

“The most important thing that’s happening is our control of the defensive side, starting with our pitching,” he said. “If that maintains itself, there’s no doubt that this crew is going to give you enough offense to get to hopefully reach your goal.”

And then Garrett Richards delivered a quality start, and the Angels lost.

The Angels have been linked to just about every decent corner outfielder available, a list that includes Jay Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes, Gerardo Parra, Ben Revere and Justin Upton. They played triple-A third baseman Kyle Kubitza in left field for a week, giving them another possible option to replace Joyce should no trade materialize.

Joyce was asked whether he expected to be in left field on Aug. 1 — the day after the trade deadline, one week away.

“That’s not up to me,” he said.

Then he flashed a hint of a smile.

“Hope so,” he said.

Up next

Nick Tropeano (1-0, 0.00 earned-run average) faces the Texas RangersColby Lewis (9-4, 4.63) on Friday at 7 p.m. at Angel Stadium. TV: FS West. Radio: 830, 1330.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Twitter: @BillShaikin

 

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