MESA, Ariz. — Two-thirds of the A’s new outfield arrived from Connecticut and reported to camp Thursday, and both players were thrilled to reach their destination.
For Matt Joyce, the Arizona sunshine was welcome after two feet of snow dumped over the past 10 days at his home near Hartford. He flew cross-country with his wife, Brittany, 1-month-old daughter Kensington and their three dogs.
“My wife asked me this morning, ‘So is this like a first day of school?’ And I kind of thought about it. It is,” said Joyce, who signed a two-year deal with Oakland in November. “You’re trying to meet new people and remembering names and faces.”
No sooner had Rajai Davis set foot in Hohokam Stadium that he donned his A’s cap and green A’s jersey. A resident of East Lyme, Conn., Davis is excited to be back for a second stint with Oakland after making a memorable run to last year’s World Series with the Cleveland Indians.
“He had his cap and his jersey on, and a pair of slacks and some dress shoes. I said, ‘Did you come in here like that?’” manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s excited about being here. That’s the type of guys we need here.”
Both players are being counted on to boost the A’s offense, though in different ways.
Davis, signed to a one-year $6 million deal, led the American League with 43 stolen bases last season and hit a dramatic Game 7 homer in the World Series. He’ll take over center field and be the A’s new leadoff man, and his speed and aggressive base running is welcome for an Oakland team that finished last in the league in runs and next-to-last in steals last season.
The 36-year-old Davis, who also played with Oakland from 2008-10, expressed excitement to work again with Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who drops in as a guest instructor periodically with the A’s. Henderson passed on some base running knowledge that Davis took with him from Oakland as he moved on to the Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers and Indians.
One message was quite simple.
“Rickey told me to go, so I went,” Davis said. “I started stealing bases.”
The left-handed hitting Joyce, whose two-year deal is worth $11 million, will play right field against right-handed starters, likely platooning with Mark Canha. He’s a .242 career hitter with 106 homers over nine big league seasons. Last season, he excelled off the bench with the Pirates, leading the majors in pinch-hit RBI (15) and drawing a Major League-record 21 walks in the pinch.
A’s catcher Stephen Vogt credits Joyce for helping him develop his hitting approach when both were in the Tampa Bay organization.
The A’s believe Joyce will fit in well on a roster that goes heavy on platoons and mixes and matches the lineup on a daily basis.
“He’s another guy that’s used to (a platoon role),” Melvin said. “I don’t know that he’s ever happy about that. But the guys that are used to that and know how the system works, it’s easier for them to acclimate and easier for them to prepare.”
Davis joked that he and A’s left fielder Khris Davis are the new Bash Brothers.
Melvin’s response: “I’m OK with him hitting a single every now and then too. He can turn it into a triple.”