TEMPE, Ariz. — Each time that Ben Joyce pitches, his chances of breaking camp with the Angels seem a little more realistic.
Joyce, the Angels’ third-round pick last July, has not allowed a run in three games, and he hit 102 mph with his fastball during a perfect inning on Sunday.
Manager Phil Nevin said Joyce’s secondary pitches are most encouraging, though.
“He can hit 102 all he wants, but if that’s all you get over a plate and hitters know it, they’re gonna hit it,” Nevin said. “These are big league hitters, and they’ve done that before so he’s learning. His secondary stuff is getting better and better and it’s gonna make it much more effective.”
The Angels have used Joyce as the first reliever in his last two outings, allowing them to see him against big league hitters.
Still, there is more to evaluate than just the way he pitches. Nevin said they need to determine if Joyce is ready for the unrestricted schedule of a big league reliever. Joyce has only played a half a season as a professional, pitching 13 innings in 13 games at Double-A. In 2021, Chris Rodriguez made the Opening Day roster as a reliever, but the Angels closely monitored his workload so he was often unavailable.
“To have somebody out there you have to manage on a daily basis as far as his workload, who can only pitch on certain days, would be very difficult to have,” Nevin said.
POSITION SHIFTING Infielder Andrew Velazquez was in the lineup in center field for Monday’s game, the start of what Nevin said will be a period of expanding the defensive roles for a variety of players.
With several of the Angels starters leaving for the World Baseball Classic, that creates more opportunity for Velazquez or Jared Walsh to play outfield, or Brandon Drury to play shortstop, Nevin said.
Infielders Luis Rengifo, David Fletcher and Gio Urshela can all play the corner outfield spots, which might allow the Angels to go without a true fourth outfielder if they want to keep an extra player at another position.
Nevin said the Angels are still planning on Brett Phillips as the fourth outfielder, though.
“We like what Brett brings in that extra outfield spot, the defense and versatility he brings at all three,” Nevin said. “Metrics wise, he’s one of the best outfielders in the game the last three years. To have that is a nice luxury.”
NOTES Left-hander José Suarez said he had no issues in his first outing with the new pitch timer, in the Angels’ split-squad game on Sunday. Suarez, who has been one of the Angels pitchers who takes the most time between pitches, did not have any violations. “I know it’s something that’s there, but it didn’t really faze me that much because I played I used it in Triple-A last year,” Suarez said through an interpreter. …
Left-hander Tyler Anderson is scheduled to start for the Angels in their exhibition against Team USA on Thursday. Mike Trout is expected to be in the lineup for that game, which is one of two exhibitions for Team USA before opening WBC play on Saturday. …
Right-hander Fernando Romero is still not in camp because of delays with his visa. Nevin said he has no further information on when Romero might arrive.