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OC Register: Angels use ‘chaos’ to help Ben Joyce manage pressure

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Music was blaring and fans were yelling, but Ben Joyce tried to keep his focus.

It was no ordinary bullpen session.

The Angels took a page from football coaches, piping in noise as the Angels’ right-hander stood on the mound for a workout Sunday. They called it the “chaos” drill.

“I enjoyed it,” Joyce said. “I think it was a beneficial thing to do to slow the game down and keep focus on what I need to do. I think it helped get my head where it needs to be, to fine-tune my mechanics and still have a game situation going on around me.”

A couple days later, Joyce pitched a perfect inning against the Dodgers. After walking the bases loaded and giving up a grand slam in his first outing this spring, Joyce has gotten better in each of his two subsequent outings.

Joyce, 23, who pitched 10 innings in the majors in his debut season last year, represents a wide range of potential outcomes for the Angels.

He has famously thrown as hard as 105 mph, in college, and he reached 103 mph in the majors, comfortably sitting at 100-102 mph.

The radar gun shows the upside, but there are still issues.

“It’s no good if you can’t throw it over the plate,” Angels manager Ron Washington said.

Joyce, who walked nine and hit a batter in his brief big-league opportunity, couldn’t find the strike zone in his first outing this spring. He walked two more in his second inning.

Before Joyce’s third outing, pitching coach Barry Enright hatched an idea to help Joyce work on remaining under control in a game situation.

The Angels had Joyce throw his bullpen session from the mound in the middle of the diamond on the half field, instead of in the bullpen. They blared loud music and implored a handful of fans who were watching the workout to make as much noise as possible. The Angels added to the realism of the situation by giving him game situations to simulate, including pickoff throws.

Joyce said he doesn’t feel nervous in games, but he does get “amped up,” which causes him to speed up. That leads to a deterioration of his mechanics.

“Being able to keep the heart rate down and stay focused on one pitch at a time, execute that pitch and move on to the next one, it was really good to practice that,” Joyce said.

The lesson followed a winter in which Joyce spent much of his time at a training facility in Atlanta with high-speed cameras for refining mechanics.

“It was interesting to see what I’m doing well and what I can work on,” Joyce said.

He said he changed his “arm path, trying to be more efficient in my mechanics.” The idea now is to “think about smooth rather than just trying to throw as hard as I can every time. If I stay smooth, that leads to being able to be more under control.”

Joyce said the velocity will still be there, but with better control.

If he can harness his stuff, Joyce could be a dominant late-inning reliever. As of now, he’s competing for a spot in the Angels bullpen. His chances may have improved with the decision to have right-hander José Soriano work as a starter.


Third baseman Anthony Rendon, who has been sidelined with groin tightness this week, said Thursday that he’s feeling better. He was set to go through a full workout for the second straight day, this time including live batting practice.

“It was more just soreness,” said Rendon, who hasn’t played since Sunday, when he felt something during his second at-bat. “We’re trying to prevent something getting bigger, especially so early in camp.”

Washington said he plans to be conservative with Rendon, giving him one more day off after he says that he’s ready to play.

“With his fragility, we just want to make certain that everything is well,” Washington said. “It’s nothing too wrong to be concerned about. When you come and say my groin is tight, all it takes is another sudden move and now it’s a pulled groin instead of a tight groin. Where he is now, we can loosen it up. But if he pulled it, we can’t loosen it. So you’ve got to be cautious.”


Umpires this year are more strictly enforcing a rule that prohibits infielders from blocking a base. Infielder Luis Rengifo got a hard lesson about the new interpretation when he was called for obstruction trying to tag a runner coming back into third during Wednesday’s game. The runner was awarded home.

Washington said they have been working with the infielders to prevent obstruction calls.

“We put in a lot of time, but sometimes the game creates things and then it’s the umpire’s discretion,” Washington said. “Rengifo didn’t know that he had done that. He was just trying to play ball. As we go along, we’ll start being more aware of that. That doesn’t mean sometimes you won’t do it.”

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