Another J.B. arrival
By Hal McCoy | Tuesday, May 27, 2008, 04:55 PM
The media horde swooped into the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse early Tuesday and catcher David Ross looked over his shoulder and said, “Jay Bruce doesn’t catch, does he?”
No, he doesn’t, but Bruce’s arrival rivals that of another J.B. - Johnny Bench. Bench’s arrival happened with far less folderol, pomp and circumstance.
It was August 29, 1967 against the Philadelphia Phillies. Bench caught that day and was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts. He was 19 years old.
And he never looked back - focusing himself right into the Hall of Fame.
Now we have outfielder Jay Bruce, just turned 21. The clamor for his promotion was as loud as the Liberty Bell before it had a crack.
Asked if he knew about the fans and media demanding his promotion, Bruce smiled and said, “Yeah, I read and saw a few things.”
What should be of major concern to the Cicinnati Reds is that fans consider Bruce the savior, the Messiah, the man to lead the Reds from last place to first place in about a day-and-a-half.
“He is not the savior,” said manager Dusty Baker. “We just want him to be himself. Just let him play and be himself - no labels on him, no comparisons. Let’s just let him play, you know? You can’t help what people put on you and what people say.”
There is not doubt Bruce’s make-up - and it has nothing to do with Revlon or Cover Girl or Mary Kay.
“He is a confident young man and he is a bright young man,” said Baker. “And very competitive.
“I’m going to protect him some, but not a whole bunch. He’s going to play most of the time,” Baker added. “Maybe not against some tough lefty, we’ll see. Right now, it is, ‘Go play.’”
“I’m glad he is here,” said Baker. “He deserves this opportunity because he earned it. That’s what I like. We asked him (in spring training) to go down and play hard and work on his skills and that’s what he did.”
“I hope he is here for a long, long time and I get to see him play and develop and get better and better,” Baker added.
Bruce said all the politically correct stuff about taking until now to get here, but he also said, “I’m an impatient person and I wanted to be here yesterday.”
A lot of people wish he had been here the day before yesterday - or the day before the season opened.
“I just want to get things started,” he said before the game, spotting his name on Tuesday’s lineup card, batting second and playing center field. “It is pretty surreal and it still hasn’t really set in. Getting sent down after spring training, well, worrying about it wasn’t going to help get me here.”
As Bruce said, he took care of business at Louisville and waited. And waited and waited and waited.
“It is what it is,” he said. “They had a plan and you have to respect their decisions. I’m here now, so . . ,” he said. “I got to work on some little things and it helped me. It certainly didn’t hurt me.”
It might have hurt the team, though, with Corey Patterson stumbling along in centerfield - batting .201 with a .243 on-base percentage and perpetrating baserunning gaffes against the laws of nature.
OK, why is Bruce batting second?
“I don’t want to put the pressure on him to lead him off,” said Baker. “The third spot right now belongs to Junior. The fourth spot belongs to Brandon Phillips. The fifth spot belongs to Adam Dunn.
“So you could put him toward the top or put him underneath,” Baker added. “I thought it would be better to put him up top. I know most good hitters bad third in the minors, but Junior has 20 years at third. Just bide you time and everything will work out sooner or later.”
Bruce has doned nothing but bide his time. Now let’s see how things work out.