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Joyce opts for winter ball 'to get back on track'

Eight-year MLB vet heading to DR after hitting .174 for Angels in 2015

ANAHEIM -- Angels left fielder Matt Joyce is a free agent entering the 2016 season, and he's coming off the worst year of his career. So in the offseason, he'll do something he hasn't done since he was a rookie with the Tigers.

"I'm gonna go play winter ball," Joyce said this week, "and hopefully some team will give me a chance."

Joyce plans on heading to the Dominican Republic to play for about a month. He's only played winter ball once, in Mexico in 2008, following his first season in the Majors.

It's an unusual decision for an eight-year Major League veteran. Then again, of those eight seasons in the big leagues, Joyce doesn't think he's had one like 2015.

"I don't know if I've ever felt like I've failed so much," Joyce said, the day after the Angels were eliminated from postseason contention on the last day of the season. "I think this was the most frustrating year, day in and day out, just coming to the field and failing."

Joyce, who was acquired from the Rays for Kevin Jepsen in the offseason, was supposed to provide the Angels with a left-handed power bat in a corner outfield spot or at designated hitter. Instead, he was a part of one of the statistically weakest left-field corps in the Major Leagues, hitting .174 with five home runs in 247 at-bats.

Video: [email protected]: Aybar hangs on after collision with Joyce

By the end of July, when he sustained a concussion in an outfield collision with Erick Aybar, Joyce was no longer playing regularly, even against right-handed pitching. When he returned in September, he made only six plate appearances as a pinch-hitter and went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts.

Joyce's last Major League hit was on July 9. He's gone 28 at-bats without one. That's why he's headed to the Dominican Republic.

"I've just got to get back on track, for me personally," Joyce said. "I'd rather kill myself trying than go through another season of failing like that again."

The Angels' lack of production in left field, with Joyce at the center, spurred their trades for David Murphy, Shane Victorino and David DeJesus before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Murphy and Victorino soon emerged as the starting platoon.

The Angels seem unlikely to bring back Joyce, although they could always try to sign him to a Minor League deal or to a league-minimum contract. As for where he might potentially land next season, Joyce said he's not sure.

"It's hard to tell," Joyce said. "You just don't know. Everything's up in the air right now."

David Adler is an associate reporter for Follow him on Twitter @_dadler.
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