Joyce makes Bucs' roster; Locke in rotation

Joyce makes Bucs' roster; Locke in rotation

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Pirates solidified two more spots on their Opening Day roster on Tuesday morning, keeping outfielder Matt Joyce and giving left-hander Jeff Locke a spot in the rotation.

Joyce will be the fourth outfielder and Locke will slot into the back of the rotation; Ryan Vogelsong and Juan Nicasio will battle it out for the fifth spot.

For Joyce, the news was a welcome and satisfying conclusion to a strong spring. The former All-Star came to camp as a non-roster invitee following a miserable season with the Angels. He spent five weeks this offseason playing in the Dominican Republic, working on his hitting in an attempt to rediscover his form.

"It's pretty huge," Joyce said. "It's tough to ride the roller coaster sometimes, especially in this game, with the ups and downs that come along with it."

That roller coaster continued this spring. Joyce looked like the obvious choice to be the Pirates' fourth outfielder, but the question remained whether the team -- with its everyday outfield trio of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco -- would need one.

"We see him as a left-handed bat off the bench who can play left or right field when [manager] Clint [Hurdle] chooses to rest one of our outfielders or in case of injury," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Veteran, commands the strike zone, gives us quality, professional at-bats."

Tuesday was Pittsburgh's deadline to either commit to putting Joyce on the Major League roster or send him to the Minor Leagues with a $100,000 retention bonus. In the end the Pirates liked what they saw from his left-handed bat and his impressive track record with the Rays against right-handed pitching (.795 career OPS).

Huntington and Hurdle shared their decision with Joyce on Tuesday morning.

"Pumped. I'm excited," Joyce said. "That was my goal coming into Spring Training, to make the team. I'm excited to be a part of it."

The news reached Locke a little less directly, as he found out when a reporter informed him following his six-inning Minor League start at the club's Pirate City complex.

"It's news to me," Locke said. "It's good news to me.

"You want to be in the rotation. You feel you should be in the rotation. If you're not in there, it's not your decision, and you've got to respect whatever direction they take."

Locke has been testing a new windup delivery this spring. He has battled inconsistency throughout his career, but the Pirates believe in his potential. Huntington pointed out that calling it a rotation "competition" may not have been fair, as the club's decision wasn't based off Spring Training results.

"It's what we see, how we see this group coming together, and Jeff's done a lot of good things for us," Huntington said. "I know he's an easy punching bag in certain circles, but Jeff's been a very solid Major League pitcher for us, and we think there's more to come.

"Jeff's had his ups and downs, but we believe that this is a big year for him and we can help him take a step forward and have more ups and fewer downs."

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.