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Joyce hits leadoff as A's tinker with order

MLB.com @JaneMLB

OAKLAND -- The A's remain in pursuit of offensive production from the leadoff spot, and the ongoing hunt has led to experiments with several different players, the latest being Matt Joyce.

A's manager Bob Melvin has tried out six players at the top of the batting order, chief among them Rajai Davis. The center fielder was expected to maintain leadoff duties on a near-everyday basis upon his offseason signing, but the veteran continues to scuffle at the plate, no matter his batting position.

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OAKLAND -- The A's remain in pursuit of offensive production from the leadoff spot, and the ongoing hunt has led to experiments with several different players, the latest being Matt Joyce.

A's manager Bob Melvin has tried out six players at the top of the batting order, chief among them Rajai Davis. The center fielder was expected to maintain leadoff duties on a near-everyday basis upon his offseason signing, but the veteran continues to scuffle at the plate, no matter his batting position.

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Davis, held out of Saturday's lineup against the Nationals in favor of Mark Canha, entered the day hitting .205, including .188 from the leadoff spot. Joyce's batting average doesn't inspire either, at .192 entering Saturday, but his on-base percentage is a more favorable .297, to Davis' .253.

Entering the day, A's leadoff hitters ranked last in the Majors in batting average, at .160. The Major League average is .254, and .249 in the American League.

"[Joyce] is not afraid to take a walk," Melvin said. "Obviously our numbers aren't great in that spot, and we're trying to stick with somebody and give him an opportunity to feel comfortable in the spot. He hasn't done a ton of it before."

Joyce, playing in his 10th Major League season, made his 45th career start in the leadoff hole Saturday. More than half of them (27) came in 2013 with Tampa under then-Rays manager Joe Maddon, who would often write in Joyce as his first hitter if he was struggling.

The reasoning?

"Don't think, just hit," Joyce said. "Sometimes it would work."

Over the next three seasons, though, Joyce hit first in just five of his 238 starts.

"I think it's something really different for me, so it's that adjustment period you have to go through," he said. "So I'm trying to figure out what's the best way for me to play that role for the team. Obviously I'm not your conventional, prototypical leadoff hitter, but I try to get on base a lot for the guys behind me.

"I try to see more pitches and kind of come back with a rapport, maybe what his stuff is doing, if his fastball is running a little bit more, it's cutting. Just kind of communicate with the other guys and hopefully help them put some runs on the board."

Joyce is 2-for-9 with a home run, a double and three walks from the leadoff spot in the A's last three games.

"Here recently I think his at-bats have been a little bit better, and he's looked a little more comfortable in the spot," Melvin said. "The other thing is, what's the alternative? I think as of right now he's the best guy for the job."

Worth Noting

Lefty Sean Doolittle (shoulder) is expected to make a second rehab appearance with Class A Advanced Stockton either Sunday or Monday, Melvin said. Doolittle made his first outing for the Ports on Friday, totaling 18 pitches in a clean inning.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics, Matt Joyce