Rays Notes: Luke Scott Finally Back in The Groove (Almost), Matt Joyce Appreciates How Far He’s Come

By Robbie Knopf

If you look at Luke Scott, you’ll immediately notice that something is missing: the Wolverine-esque facial hair that became he became so iconic for in 2012. Scott shaved the chops as part of the Rays’  “Fortune Favors the Bald” initiative to raise money for children afflicted with cancer, so they certainly went to good cause, but he still looks to regrow the chops by the season begins. However, more important than Scott’s look on his face is his look at the plate, and in that regard, he’s looking as good as ever. Scott has had himself an unbelievable spring, hitting .375 with 4 doubles, 3 homers, 8 RBI, and 2 strikeouts compared to 2 walks in 26 plate appearances, including a grand slam off Doug Fister on Tuesday. But it’s a whole lot more than the numbers that has Joe Maddon excited to see what Scott can do this season.

"“It could be very big because he’s capable of so much. He’s been a good RBI guy based on at bats and with him feeling well we should see a lot more of that. He’s just one of those guys who seems to kind of have a knack for driving in a run, and he’s doing well right now. His swing is more effortless now. It’s almost like it’s an easier swing with better results.“Last year I think he was concerned about swinging and missing because it would hurt and all of a sudden he would feel it on his shoulder. But all those little dynamics, I don’t think they’re present this year.”"

Luke Scott had an up-and-down 2012, managing just a .229/.285/.439 line with 14 home runs, but from 2008 to 2010 he put up a .266/.348/.497 line with an average of 25 homers, 28 doubles, and 71 RBI per season, and with his shoulder finally healthy after derailing him the last two years, Scott has the ability to get back to that and become a huge piece of the Rays’ lineup. The Rays brought Scott back knowing just how good as he can be when he’s fully healthy, and while anything can happen once the season gets underway, it’s starting to look like they made the right decision.

It was after the 2008 season that the Rays traded for Matthew Joyce, acquiring him from the Detroit Tigers for right-hander Edwin Jackson. But on Tuesday, Joyce got to go on a trip down memory lane as the Rays headed to the Tigers’ spring home in Lakeland, Florida. As Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times talked about, Joyce didn’t just play in Lakeland for spring training with the Tigers but also called the place home when he attended Florida Southern University. It was while he was at Florida Southern that Joyce caught the Tigers’ eyes in exhibition games between the college and the Tigers enough for them to draft him in the 12th round of the 2005 MLB Draft. It’s amazing how far Joyce has come since then, but Joyce still always appreciates coming back.

"“It’s like I know everybody in the stands,” Joyce said. “They’re yelling, ‘Go Mocs!’ and, ‘Hey, Joyce!’ You have a lot of Florida Southern fans and Detroit Tigers fans get in there, saying, ‘We miss you in Detroit.’ It’s a good mix, and plus, you have your hometown Rays people out here. It doesn’t get any better for me.”"