Bruce still has things to work on, but keeps an eye on Reds
The former Dragons outfielder, Bailey and Janish are taking care of business with Bats.
By Marc Katz
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — He checks the Reds scores and batting averages every day.
He talks with pal and Reds' first baseman Joey Votto every day.
He dreams of playing for the Reds. Every day.
And yet, when asked how things were going for him with the Class AAA Louisville Bats, 21-year-old outfielder Jay Bruce flashed a big smile and said, "Awesome. I can't complain."
No one with the Bats can complain, either. Bruce, who was minor-league baseball's 2007 player of the year after hitting .325 at Class A Sarasota, .333 at Class AA Chattanooga and finishing with a .305 flourish at Louisville, earned a look by the Reds at spring training. Ultimately, he was shipped to Louisville for a little more experience.
He is here with nine other players who made stops with the Class A Dayton Dragons — including pitcher Homer Bailey, who pitched briefly with the Reds last season. Shortstop Paul Janish will join the Reds today after Jeff Keppinger's injury Tuesday.
For guys so close, it isn't easy to accept a minor-league assignment.
"If I come down here and don't accept it, I do terrible and don't get called up anytime soon," Bruce said Tuesday, May 13. "I keep up with the Reds. But no matter what goes on there, I have to take care of my business."
He has had one minor slump, going 0-for-11 in three games at Richmond at the beginning of the month. It lowered his batting average from .316 to .284.
"I just didn't like playing in Richmond," Bruce said. "I wasn't comfortable there. Things like that happen.
"Right now, things are falling my way (an eight-game hitting streak, .382)."
He quickly adds he isn't perfect.
"I'm still striking out more than my share (34 times in 138 at-bats)."
Bruce is the most scrutinized of the Reds' minor-leaguers, especially since the big club is off to a stumbling start and the team's outfielders have not produced as expected.
Louisville's manager Rick Sweet cautions that Bruce is not yet a finished product.
"Jay Bruce still makes mistakes," Sweet said. "He came down here with a great attitude, and he has worked very hard. He is young and has a long (major-league) future ahead of him."
Bailey, too, has worked hard, although his last outing, Saturday against Richmond, did not go so well (4 1/3 innings, 11 hits, six earned runs, two walks, one strikeout).
Bailey, 22, expected not only to make the Reds, but to be in the rotation. Instead, he ended up in Louisville. He accepted the assignment, but does not like to talk about it.
Asked Tuesday if he had learned anything pitching in Louisville, Bailey said "no" and walked away.
Reds minor-league pitching coordinator Mack Jenkins portrayed a more amicable Bailey.
"He's one of the guys," Jenkins said. "He's rank and file. He's a player, without question.
"He has the package to do it, and he's getting close to the point where guys of his talent should be getting there (to the majors)."
Janish, 25, was moving nearly as quickly through the Reds organization as Bruce and Bailey until he slumped to .221 in his first try with the Bats midway through last season.
"I just got into a funk and couldn't get out of it," Janish said. "In the off-season, I went back to school (Rice University) and got my mind off baseball for three months. I wanted to make the (40-man) roster, and I did. I knew, reasonably, I had no chance of making the Reds in spring training, but I got a chance to play, and I just feel good this year."
He's hitting .289 and playing an exceptional shortstop.
"We have a good team here (23-16 before Tuesday's game), and a good clubhouse dynamic. I'm having fun, too."