Joyce solid choice if Bucs carry four outfielders

Fellow reserve candidates Figueroa, Florimon bring versatility

Joyce solid choice if Bucs carry four outfielders

BRADENTON, Fla. -- If the Pirates choose to break camp with a fourth outfielder, Matt Joyce looks like the obvious choice. But will they?

"We've got some really interesting decisions to make as this winds down," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Matt Joyce obviously does damage against right-handed pitching. He could be that fourth outfielder, if we went with a pure fourth outfielder."

Spring: Tickets | Ballpark | 40-man roster | NRIs

Filling out the Pirates' bench isn't as simple as finding the next-best players at each position. The Pirates will begin the season with at least one super-utility player, Sean Rodriguez. They might carry another, and whether it's Cole Figueroa or Pedro Florimon -- or both? -- remains to be seen.

Rodriguez can hold his own anywhere on the field. Figueroa is a versatile infielder, and he's been working in the outfield. Florimon is a natural shortstop, and he's also seen time in the outfield.

Michael Morse's best position might be the batter's box, as Huntington said with a smile Monday, but he can play first base and right field. Jason Rogers has spent most of the spring at first and third, but he's played left field as well.

Figueroa's RBI single

"We'll see how things go. We like our depth in Triple-A," Huntington said. "At the same time, we do need to be cognizant of who would play the outfield on a regular basis if we had an injury and where would we go with that, and that will be part of the decision process as we move forward."

Where does that leave Joyce, a left-handed-hitting corner outfielder on a team loaded with right-handed hitters?

"I feel good about this Spring Training, about this camp. I'm excited to see what happens," said Joyce, who went 0-for-2 with two walks in Monday's 7-3 loss to the Braves. "I'm really hopeful for a chance to get a lot of at-bats with this team, because they have a great team and I'd love to be a part of it."

In big league camp on a Minor League deal, Joyce has seen better results the past few days. He doubled and homered off former Pirates starter Charlie Morton on Friday. He singled to left and pulled a homer to right against Ryan Vogelsong in a Minor League camp game Sunday morning.

"I definitely feel like I have a lot to prove, but in the same sense, I feel I have done it enough to know what it takes to get ready for 162 games," Joyce said. "I try to prepare my body and mind as best I can to be ready to play 162 games. Obviously my goal is first to make the team, and we'll go from there."

Joyce struggled to a .174 average and .564 OPS with the Angels last season, but his track record and .795 career OPS against right-handed pitching make him an intriguing fourth-outfield option. That is, if the Bucs decide they need a fourth outfielder.

"We'll have some interesting decisions. We've got a little bit less than two weeks to go," Huntington said. "We'll have some quality conversations as we go forward, but we like our choices."

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.