Joyce has busy day in outfield
Filling in for Sheffield, rookie makes a play for the highlight reel
DETROIT -- Matt Joyce had a busy indoctrination to left field at Comerica Park.
After veteran Gary Sheffield had three relatively quiet days in left for the first three games of the Tigers' series against Boston, Joyce made his first start there and suddenly became the center of attention. He ended up with one of the highlight catches of the season so far in Detroit, a home run ball that he couldn't see as he nearly made a play at the fence and a throw to the plate that was so on target that it literally pegged the runner.
The highlight will be the most remembered, an outstretched dive in left-center field to rob Dustin Pedroia of what would have been an RBI extra-base hit in the fifth inning. It became a moot point when Kevin Youkilis homered two batters later, but it gave a glimpse of why Joyce had such a strong defensive reputation in the Tigers farm system.
Joyce had to decide right away whether to make a diving attempt on Pedroia's hit. If he went for it, he had to get it. Otherwise, Pedroia would've at least gone into third base. Joyce didn't hesitate.
"I usually get good jumps in the outfield," Joyce said. "I'm pretty confident in my ability to be a good outfielder. I got a great jump. I saw it really well off the bat. Just timed it well.
"It was cool. The crowd really got into it. I got goose bumps and chills from the crowd."
In contrast to that immediate read, Joyce had virtually no read at all on Youkilis' deep fly ball. The twilight conditions made for a difficult sky, something center fielder Curtis Granderson echoed after the game.
Joyce threw up his arms at one point to signal that he had no idea where the ball was, but he spotted it as it was coming down.
"I had no read," Joyce said. "I saw it go up. I knew he hit it well. I tucked my head and ran back. I was at the wall and I really could not find the ball until the last second. I thought I was in a good position. I saw it at the last second, and it was about 10 feet to my right. I tried to get to it, but I couldn't."
He was close enough that he estimated he came within a foot or two as he jumped.
The throw home came on Jason Varitek's two-run single in the second inning. His sharp ground ball glanced off third baseman Carlos Guillen's glove and into short left, and Joyce retrieved it and fired home. The ball hit J.D. Drew as he came in to score, but he wasn't injured. Varitek advanced to second, but he would have even had the throw gone through to catcher Brandon Inge.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.