SEFFNER — Matt Joyce lingered at the Tropicana Field clubhouse where visiting players pick up their allotment of tickets. He needed another fistful.
"Twenty tickets, and it's not enough," said the Armwood High School graduate, whose rapid rise from mid level prospect to Detroit Tigers rookie made for a taxing return home last weekend at Tropicana Field. It's a happy hassle he never thought would come so quickly, or with such fanfare.
Called up in early May, Joyce hit five homers in 18 games before being sent back to Triple-A Toledo. Then he stopped seeing fastballs, and his average dipped to .208.
Recalled June 29, he hit five homers in his next 18 games to become one of four players since 1999 to hit 10 in his first 36 games.
The others are Mike Jacobs (29 games), Albert Pujols (32) and Adam Dunn (36).
Only 13 players have reached 10 homers faster since 1954.
"I saw a lot more fastballs in the strike zone," Joyce said of his second stint. "And I think just over the past year I've learned how to drive the ball, where before I was still making adjustments."
After Sunday's game, Joyce was batting .279 with 10 doubles, two triples, 10 home runs and 25 RBIs for the year.
"He's done a good job," manager Jim Leyland said. "He has his moments, obviously. His inexperience shows up at times, but I've been very impressed. He has a good sound when he hits (the ball). I like him a lot."
Joyce, 24, was discovered as a junior at Florida Southern when he played well during an annual exhibition game with the Tigers.
"We tied them my junior year. I made a couple good plays, hit a couple balls hard," Joyce said. "But I don't think their overall decision (to draft me) came from that. It definitely helped, though."