Struggling Angels left fielder Matt Joyce, who was benched Sunday and Monday, got his second straight start Wednesday night despite a one-for-13, seven-game skid that dropped his average to .181 and on-base percentage to .263.
Manager Mike Scioscia has what many consider a more attractive left-handed-hitting left-field option in Efren Navarro, who doesn’t have much power but has a knack for stringing together quality at-bats.
In four starts last week, Navarro went five for 15 with a run batted in, and he delivered a pinch-hit double in the seventh inning of Wednesday night's 3-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Chase Field.
But Scioscia, who has stuck with some struggling veterans longer than most would like — see Steve Finley, Vernon Wells, Raul Ibanez, et al. — seems determined to give Joyce every opportunity to regain the stroke that helped him hit .255 with 83 homers and 279 RBIs in 2,022 career at-bats against right-handers.
Joyce, 30, also hit .265 with a .365 OBP, eight homers and 45 RBIs in 384 at-bats against right-handers for Tampa Bay last season.
"Obviously, there’s a track record," Scioscia said. "You're not going back five years and looking at something he did then. Last year, against right-handers, he got on base, and when he got a chance, he drove the ball. But Matty knows he’s 200 plate appearances into the season, which is significant."
Joyce was robbed of a hit in the second when Paul Goldschmidt, the Arizona first baseman, made a diving stop of his hard grounder down the line. But Joyce led off the fifth with a shift-beating single to the left side of the infield, he walked in the sixth and he crushed a two-out triple to deep left-center in the eighth.
"I thought Matt had good at-bats," Scioscia said. "He took a walk and really drove that ball to left-center for a triple. Hopefully, we'll be talking about Matt for a long time. His upside is really important to us, and hopefully we'll start to see it come."
As for his daily lineup decision in left field, Scioscia said, “There are a lot of dynamics. We know Matt Joyce, what he needs as the season moves on, how important for us it would be if he swings the bat to his capabilities.
"We have to balance that with the fact of needing offense now and being able to insert Efren if we need to or Daniel Robertson against left-handers. The bottom line is we’d love to establish some continuity out there."