08/20/08 9:16 PM ET
Rangers' Walbeck proud of Joyce
Third-base coach managed Tigers outfielder in Minors
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
Other than the fact that the homer came against his current club, Walbeck couldn't be happier.
"It's kind of a strange feeling, mixed emotions," Walbeck said Wednesday. "But to know that he and I have worked together and I've watched him progress to this level, it's a great feeling -- for the game and for me personally."
Before Joyce became a big leaguer, he was usually playing for Walbeck in the Tigers' farm system. He is one player that Walbeck managed at both of his Minor League stops -- first at Class A West Michigan in 2006, then at Double-A Erie last year.
Walbeck has had players who have reached the big leagues, including former Tigers left-hander and current Marlin Andrew Miller. With Joyce, however, he can watch a player he worked with for two years test his talents at baseball's highest level and try to find a long-term spot.
Joyce's numbers were remarkably similar in those two years, but he made good strides as a hitter to get there. The results are paying off this season, as he tries to become a left-handed power source in the Tigers' lineup.
The fact that Joyce got here wasn't a surprise to Walbeck. The timing was going to be the question.
"It was a matter of the opportunity presenting itself and staying healthy," Walbeck said.
Joyce hit 17 home runs last year at Erie, but Walbeck didn't consider him simply a power hitter. As Walbeck explained, he's more a hitter to the power alleys, with a natural swing that can produce power.
As he has watched Joyce in the Rangers' current series against the Tigers, Walbeck has seen him take some big steps as a hitter.
"He has a natural, sweet power swing," Walbeck said. "What I'm impressed with is his ability to drive the ball the other way, because I didn't see that two years ago. Last year, I saw it a little bit. This year, I can see where he's starting to figure out how to drive the ball to left-center."
Both of his homers Tuesday featured more traditional left-handed power down the right-field line. If Joyce can combine those threats and hit to all fields with some authority, Walbeck sees a great future in line.
"He's a big leaguer," Walbeck said. "He's going to be a big leaguer for a long time."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.