Angels rookie Ben Joyce listed with ulnar neuritis but MRI reveals no ligament damage

Angels reliever Ben Joyce delivers against the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.
Angels reliever Ben Joyce delivers against the Seattle Mariners on Friday night. Joyce’s stint on the mound was brief.
(Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images)
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Hard-throwing Angels rookie right-hander Ben Joyce was put on the 15-day injured list before Saturday’s 6-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners.

The reliever, who was removed from Friday’s game after facing just one batter, was listed with ulnar neuritis in his right elbow. Joyce had an MRI exam before the game. The MRI revealed nerve inflammation but no ligament damage.

“Really good news,” manager Phil Nevin said after the game. “It was a nerve issue … the ligament is intact. As far as where we go from here, he’s sore today, as you’d expect and probably will be for a few days.


“So I can’t really give you a timetable other than the fact that we’re really happy with the news that we got from his test results today. Really it’s when he feels better and he can throw, then he’s gonna throw.”

After one pitch in the middle of Joyce’s brief outing Friday, he said he began to feel tingling and numbness in his hand and forearm. Pitching coach Matt Wise chatted with Joyce on the mound after he walked the one batter he faced, and that’s when Joyce relayed what he was feeling.

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After Saturday’s game, he said the feeling of not knowing was scary.

“I mean anytime you get pulled out of the game, it’s not a good feeling,” Joyce said. “The thoughts going through your head, I mean I’ve had Tommy John before so it was a thought in my head. But hearing the [MRI] news was good. It was a relief for sure.”

Ulnar neuritis refers to inflammation of the ulnar nerve, explained Dr. Alan Beyer, executive medical director at the Hoag Orthopedic Institute and an orthopedic surgeon. Beyer is not Joyce’s physician and spoke to The Times as an expert on the type of injury.

People suffering from ulnar neuritis typically feel symptoms in the fourth and fifth fingers, which are the fingers connected to the ulnar nerve, Beyer said. But ulnar neuritis does not mean Joyce is destined to miss significant time.

“The ulnar nerve travels right next to where the ulnar collateral ligament is, the ligament that’s injured when people need Tommy John surgery,” Beyer said. “It’s not necessarily a precursor to that person needing Tommy John surgery.”

Angels pitcher Ben Joyce speaks to teammates as Angels manager Phil Nevin, left, arrives at the mound.
Angels pitcher Ben Joyce speaks to teammates as Angels manager Phil Nevin, left, arrives at the mound during the fourth inning of a 5-4 win over the Seattle Mariners on Friday.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Ulnar neuritis also can occur in people who have had Tommy John surgery. If an MRI doesn’t show soft tissue signs of injury and reveals just inflammation, Beyer said, then the typical treatment would be shutting down a player from throwing for one or two weeks and then gauging the player day to day to see how they respond to more conservative therapy methods.

Joyce was called up May 28, when veteran reliever Matt Moore was placed on the IL with a Grade 2 oblique strain.

Moore started throwing again on the field before Saturday’s game.

Joyce, whom the Angels picked at No. 89 in last year’s draft, has had some success in his brief time in the majors.

In four outings (four innings pitched) before Friday, Joyce had given up two earned runs and five hits, walked three and struck out five.

Phil Nevin ejected in Angels’ loss

Angels manger Phil Nevin, center, argues with home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi.
Angels manger Phil Nevin, center, argues with home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi, left, as third base umpire Dan Bellino stands by after Shohei Ohtani struck out looking during the fifth inning Saturday against the Seattle Mariners.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Angels had a chance to load the bases for Mike Trout in the bottom of the fifth inning. Shohei Ohtani — who was the batter and had a full count with two outs — then watched as Mariners reliever Gabe Speier’s pitch hit the outside bottom corner of the strike zone.

Home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi called it a strike. Inning over.

Ohtani immediately turned his back toward the umpire, his arm outstretched toward the Angels’ dugout. He reluctantly made his way to the dugout, shaking his head.

Nevin said that he had been pointing for the next pitcher to get on the field but Cuzzi thought he had said something and ejected him.

“That’s fine. I mean, I understand that part. I’ll take those,” Nevin said. “I don’t want any of my coaches or players getting thrown out … and once you go, you get a good talk.” After being ejected, out came Nevin, screaming at Cuzzi.

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If Ohtani walked, it would have put the go-ahead run on first base, giving Trout a chance to cut into the Angels’ 5-2 deficit.

Instead, Nevin was sweeping the dirt beside the plate in protest. Nevin was ultimately ejected.


Ohtani drove in the Angels’ runs on a two-run, 400-foot home run in the third inning.

Patrick Sandoval struggled against the Mariners, giving up five earned runs, including a home run, and 10 hits. He struck out eight.

Angels’ moves

The Angels called up right-hander Gerardo Reyes to take Joyce’s spot in the bullpen. Reyes has been pitching with the team’s triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake City.

The Angels also have Andrew Wantz and Jimmy Herget among their reliever options at triple A, but Nevin said that Reyes seemed like the best option for now.

Reyes appeared in relief in the top of the seventh inning, giving up a run on two hits.

Also on the Angels’ transaction report: Hunter Renfroe returned from the paternity list. Jo Adell was optioned back to triple A. Max Stassi was transferred to the 60-day IL.