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Matt Joyce fights nerves to have impressive Tropicana Field debut as a Tampa Bay Ray

ST. PETERSBURG — OF Matt Joyce said that during his Rays Tropicana Field debut Sunday, his emotions ran the gamut, from butterflies and nerves to his adrenaline kicking in.

The Tampa native, playing in front of about a dozen family and friends, said it was hard to relax and slow the game.

But when Joyce did, he delivered, going 2-for-3, including a go-ahead solo homer in the fifth.

Joyce, 24, acquired from the Tigers in the offseason trade of RHP Edwin Jackson, said the homer was a close "No. 2" to the first one his father, Matt Sr., saw him hit in the majors last season.

"Running around the bases, you're on Cloud 9," Joyce said. "You don't even really feel your feet hit the ground."

Joyce, recalled from Triple-A Durham on Saturday, said he wants to be a starter but won't worry about what he can't control. He said he is focusing on "having fun" and contributing. Joyce started in center Sunday and will likely get opportunities in the outfield and at DH with Pat Burrell on the disabled list.

Manager Joe Maddon said Joyce is the "kind of guy you'd like to get here and keep here," as with LHP David Price, but with the way the club is structured, "it may not be the same for him."

"But I do believe he could be a regular major-leaguer right now," Maddon said.

PERCI UPDATE: Though nothing is definite, RHP Troy Percival may not be ready to retire.

Maddon said he met with the veteran closer, who plans to work with a chiropractor in California and improve the health of his throwing arm.

That's the first priority, Maddon said, and after that, Percival will ponder returning. When Percival was put on the disabled list, Maddon said he wouldn't have been surprised if the closer retired, and that still seems likely.

But it sounds as if Percival will see how his body responds before making a call. Percival, 39, was in uniform Sunday, hanging out in the dugout.

"I don't think he's counted himself out yet," LHP J.P. Howell said. "He's still working out. I think maybe we'll see how he is in a month or so. Maybe he can come back. … He's had this time off, he's saying, 'Maybe I can give this one more push here.' And I think he can."

IN THE LEAD: Utilityman Ben Zobrist started at second and batted leadoff, taking the place of CF B.J. Upton. Maddon said he wanted to give Upton back-to-back days off. Zobrist went 1-for-4. Upton pinch-hit in the eighth and singled.

GETTING CLOSER: Burrell, who has missed the past 19 games due to a neck strain, said his last round of injections went well and he thinks it's time to start doing baseball activities.

"I'm hoping to be playing some games — somewhere — hopefully by the end of this week, or next week," Burrell said.

Burrell could get at-bats in a minor-league rehabilitation assignment before rejoining the Rays, but there has been no indication that has been decided.

MINOR MATTERS: RHP Chad Bradford said he's reporting to Double-A Montgomery today for the next step in his rehab from offseason elbow surgery. … OF Rashad Eldridge has been promoted to Durham. … The Rays signed OF Joe Gaetti and assigned him to Montgomery.

DID YOU KNOW: LHP David Price is the third pitcher to record his first regular-season win after recording a victory in a postseason game, after the Braves' Odalis Perez (vs. Cubs in 1998) and the Angels' Francisco Rodriguez (at Yankees in 2002).

MISCELLANY: SS Reid Brignac went 2-for-2 with a double, his first career multihit game. … 1B Carlos Peña extended his AL home run lead with his 17th and has homered in four of his past 11 starts after going a season-long 11 games without one. He became the first player to hit the A-ring catwalk, in the eighth inning.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Matt Joyce fights nerves to have impressive Tropicana Field debut as a Tampa Bay Ray 05/31/09 [Last modified: Monday, June 1, 2009 12:49pm]
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