CHICAGO — During his pregame media briefing Monday, Angels manager Phil Nevin said there’s a “fairly good chance” Ben Joyce will make his MLS debut later that evening.
Whether or not Nevin has prepared the 22-year-old flamethrower for the situation he was called to, the ninth-place finisher has handled the club like a 10-year-old veteran.
Joyce, who was called up from Double-A Rocket City on Sunday, entered the seventh inning with the Angels clinging to a one-run lead over the White Sox. He set a scoreless frame—hitting a pair of batters while shooting three-digit fastball after three-digit fastball—in Los Angeles’ 6-4 win at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“Ideally, yes, you want to come down softly,” Nevin said. “But, that’s what we had tonight. [Joyce] He came, and no moment seemed too big for him.”
When Nevin called out Joyce’s number in front of rookie Griffin Canning, the Angels took a 4-3 lead, with all four runs scored in the top of the first inning. It would be easy for this kind of moment to get the best out of any pitcher, let alone a rookie who was drafted less than a year ago.
Before the frame, catcher Matt Theis met Joyce at the mound as he arrived from the action, and he was impressed by the right-hander’s demeanor.
“So cool, calm and collected,” said Tess of Joyce, adding that he did the same during Sam Bachman’s debut last week. “First big league outing. If you’re a position player, you’re kind of hidden in the nine. When you’re a pitcher, all eyes are on you, and you get the ball.”
“It felt amazing. I felt so comfortable—much more comfortable than I thought I would feel,” Joyce said. “I just went out and secured my stuff and threw strikes, and it worked. It was an amazing feeling.”
Joyce which was once clocked at 105.5 mph With the University of Tennessee, they’re out. He threw 10 of 12 strikes, throwing 11 sinkers and one tackle. He maxed out at 102.2 mph and averaged 101.3 mph.
Other than a 89.3mph chopper, the slowest step he ever threw was a sinking 100.2mph.
Joyce’s first pitch was ahead of Andrew Vaughn, who had hit a home run three runs earlier, sinking 102 mph for a hit. He drew another sinker, at 100.3 mph, into the outside corner for the second putt.
Joyce’s third score was a cutter at the same spot, which Vaughn lined up for a base hit.
Nevin joked, “I loved the first two pitches they threw. I wasn’t really excited about the cutter. We went 0-2, but I think we fixed that.”
actually. Next up was Gavin Sheets, and Joyce threw four sinkers to record his first career strikeout. They clocked in at 101.8, 100.7, 100.2, and 101.8 mph. Romy González suffered the same fate, facing 101.5, 101.6, 101.2, 100.6 and a disqualification.
“He’s very assertive, and I think the most impressive thing is how much stretch he gets,” Thays said of catching up with Joyce, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds. “He’s a big guy. We see him run around. When he shoots the ball, I feel like I could touch him there. It’s close, so you won’t see it for a long time, and it’s 103.” [mph]. “
Joyce topped out at 102.2 mph on his last pitch—sinker Yasmani Grandal flew harmlessly to left field.
He said he was excited to be playing at any moment, and a few late game appearances for Rocket City certainly came in handy on Monday.
“It kind of helped me calm my nerves out there and get back on the offense and get back into the offensive zone,” said Joyce.
Joyce and Chris Divinsky pitched in two scoreless innings, and Carlos Estevez got a save after allowing one run in the ninth inning, helping to start Canning’s quality. Canning struck out a season-high nine batters and allowed three runs on six hits, including a pair of one-run home runs, in six innings pitched.
Joyce’s mother, father, brother, friend and friend’s family attended Monday’s game. He was celebrated by the Angels at the clubhouse after the game, and Joyce was given a squad card – a souvenir he had always dreamed of receiving.
A conversation with his mom Monday morning was such a hard-to-believe reminder. From a year ago to today, Joyce made it to the SEC Championship Game for Tennessee. The Volunteers won, 8-5, despite Joyce giving up two runs on a homer.
“Now I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “Surely crazy to think.”
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