Ben Joyce returns from IL to boost Angels bullpen heat

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The heat-throwing reliever rejoined the Angels on Sunday afternoon, tossing a scoreless inning to help the team secure a 2-1 victory against Cleveland.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — When Ben Joyce was placed on the IL in June with ulnar neuritis — a nerve condition that occurs when the ulnar nerve in the arm is compressed or irritated — the Angels bullpen lost some serious velocity. 

Now, after a successful rehab assignment with the Inland Empire 66ers and a healthy dose of recovery time, the 22-year-old right hander is back and feels “100%” In two appearances with Single-A, Joyce tossed two scoreless innings, allowing just one hit. 

Joyce was reinstated ahead of Sunday’s game against the Cleveand Guardians, along with Zach Neto who was also reinstated after a stint on the IL due to lower back inflammation. 

Coming in to pitch the seventh inning on Sunday, Joyce welcomed himself back to the major league hill with a first pitch sinker that clocked 99.9 mph. He threw a scoreless inning to help the Angels secure a 2-1 victory which also included Kenny Rosenberg’s first MLB career win and Carlos Estévez’s 30th save of the season. 

“I thought he threw the ball well. He came out fresh, and he feels good. That’s the important part,” said Angels manager, Phil Nevin. 

The first injury of his major league career, Joyce said the recovery process took longer than he initially expected, but he’s happy to be back with the team for the final stretch of the year. 

“​​It’s tough any time that you’re not able to play and have to be on the sidelines,” said Joyce. “It’s good to be back now and get through all the hurdles in the recovery process and be back with the team. That’s all I really wanted, so it’s good to be back here.” 

Playing for the University of Tennessee, Joyce first turned heads as a college ball player when he clocked 105.5 mph with a fastball — the fastest recorded pitch in college history. Throughout his minor league career with the Rocket City Trash Pandas, Joyce continued to pitch triple-digit velocities before he became the second player from the 2022 draft class to be called up to the show in May of this year. 

Prior to his injury, the Tennessee native pitched five total innings in relief for the Angels, with four of those appearances resulting in scoreless innings. When asked if he would be able to get back to the heat-throwing pitcher he was before the injury, Joyce said he not only felt good about making a triumphant return, but he is also excited about the future and preparing for next season. 

“I feel good. I wouldn’t have said I was ready if I didn’t feel like I could give it all I had. I feel 100% right now and I think that I’ll be able to continue that for the rest of the year and build into the offseason,” said Joyce, who currently ranks as the Angels No. 7 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. 

Nevin has talked consistently about the future of the team, mentioning such young players as Logan O’Hoppe, Mickey Moniak, Reid Detmers, Neto and Joyce. 

With Joyce back in an Angels uniform today, Nevin said he plans to use the young reliever throughout the remainder of the season while also being mindful of how he feels and making sure he is physically prepared for every outing. 

“It’s a learning experience for all of them. The more games we can get for them, the better off we’re going to be going forward,” said Nevin. 

With eyes on the future, Joyce added that this recovery process helped sharpen his focus on how important it is to stay loose and mobile throughout a season. This includes staying disciplined with a steady routine and focusing specifically on soft tissue recovery in the arm and up into the neck area, he said. 

From longer stretching sessions to routine foam rolling, Joyce said his priority is to maintain mobility and learn from every opportunity on the hill. He added that his goal for the rest of the 2023 season is “to just get out there as often as I can and prove myself every time out there and just be grateful for being out there again.”