Angels' Matt Joyce says he felt pressure of replacing Josh Hamilton

After hitting first homer of season, Angels' Matt Joyce describes struggle of taking over for Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton has haunted the Angels in so many ways, even in his absence.

Matt Joyce, who replaced the banished Hamilton as the Angels' left fielder, did not hit a home run in April. He ranked last in the major leagues in OPS. 

And, after hitting his first home run of the season Monday -- in his 81st at-bat -- Joyce said he struggled to handle the burden of being the guy taking over for Hamilton.

"For sure," Joyce said. "I can't sit here and say I didn't feel a lot of pressure. I put a lot of pressure on myself to try to fill his shoes."

The Angels acquired Joyce from the Tampa Bay Rays last December, for reliever Kevin Jepsen. The plan was for Joyce to back up Hamilton in left field and split time at designated hitter, but then Hamilton suffered a drug relapse. After an unusually public battle between Hamilton and the Angels over how the relapse should have been handled, the Angels traded him to the Texas Rangers.

"You just want to be successful," Joyce said. "You're in a new place. You're in a new environment. You have fans that have high expectations. It's tough to get out there and relax. 

"Sometimes you want to do so much. It's what you've worked your whole life for."

Joyce is batting .148. He said he could not remember such a prolonged struggle -- at any point in a season, not just at the start of a season -- since double-A.

The Angels are 11-15, seven games out of first place in the American League West. The team is batting .224 and has scored three runs or fewer in 15 of their 26 games.

"Nobody's necessarily hitting the panic button," Joyce said. "Everybody understands we're a lot better than we're playing."

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin

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