Bruce shines in Major League spotlight
Rookie goes 3-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs in debut
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- A victim of veteran pranks already, new Reds center fielder Jay Bruce proudly wore the spoils of his spectacular Major League debut.
Bruce got two shaving cream pies to his face and a bucket of ice water splashed at him on the heels of Tuesday's 9-6 Reds win over the Pirates at Great American Ball Park.
Welcome to the big leagues, rook. That's the reward when you go 3-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored while reaching base in all five plate appearances.
"That's probably as good of a debut I've ever seen," said Reds manager Dusty Baker, a veteran of 40 big league seasons said. "He made his debut well documented and something he'll never forget. You see what's there. You see why he's so highly touted. He picked up here where he left off in Triple-A."
To chants of "Bruuuuuce" in his debut plate appearance from 17,964 fans, the 21-year-old Bruce drew a first-inning walk. His first hit came in the third inning when he lined a single to left field off of Pirates starter Ian Snell.
Perhaps Bruce didn't need the postgame ice water soaking. Baseball's top prospect already had the stuff coursing through his veins.
"I was a lot more calm than I thought I was going to be," said Bruce, who was batting .364 with a nine-game hitting streak when he was promoted from Triple-A Louisville. "It was fun getting warmed up and everything. It almost felt like another baseball game. I think the most important thing for a debut is getting a win and that was awesome. Hopefully, there's a lot more coming."
Snell (2-4) gave up six hits and seven walks in his five innings, but the Reds and Johnny Cueto were trailing by a 3-0 score after the top of the fifth inning. In the bottom half, Snell issued three straight one-out walks -- including one to Bruce -- before Brandon Phillips hit a sacrifice fly to center field. Then came the crushing blow.
Next up was Adam Dunn, who lifted a 1-0 offering into the next-to-last row of seats in right field for a 4-3 lead. The 454-foot shot was Dunn's team-leading 15th homer of the season, his third in four games and eighth in 12 games. The 252nd homer of his career also moved him past Ted Kluszewski for fourth on the club's all-time list. Dunn also had an RBI single in the sixth for a four-RBI night.
Cincinnati added another four-spot in that sixth, including a bases-loaded single by Bruce off of lefty Damaso Marte, for his first RBI. The lefty hitter sent the knock into left field, which impressed his manager.
"That's a positive sign, the fact he's using the whole field," Baker said. "A lot of guys come up and they're trying to pull and hit a home run. He's staying within himself and did what he does best."
In the seventh, Bruce sharply lined a two-out double to the right-field wall for his third hit. The last Reds player with three hits in his debut was Willie Greene on Sept. 1, 1992.
"I don't think you can write it any better than this," said Bruce, the Reds' first-round Draft pick in 2005.
The big nights by Bruce and Dunn covered up a lackluster night for the pitching staff. Cueto (3-4) gave up three runs, two earned, and nine hits over five innings while throwing 119 pitches. The 22-year-old right-hander, who walked three and struck out four, hasn't made it beyond the fifth three times over his last four starts.
"He threw a lot of pitches in a short period of time again, but he battled," Baker said. "He was in trouble almost every inning, but he held them to three to give us a chance to win the ballgame."
The Reds missed a chance to coast to a six-run victory when reliever Jeremy Affeldt gave up two homers for three runs in the ninth. Closer Francisco Cordero had to be used to get the final out for his 11th save.
A win made it possible for the shaving cream pies to fly, which happened as Bruce was being interviewed on the field during the postgame broadcast.
"I didn't do it," said right fielder Ken Griffey Jr., who knew the culprits. "I can be bribed."
"What can he be bribed with?" Bruce retorted about his well compensated teammate and boyhood idol. Touche.
It turned out that David Ross supplied the shaving cream while Aaron Harang provided the water.
Now Bruce can come back to the ballpark and do it all again on Wednesday.
"Jay, you can get here at 4 o'clock tomorrow, not 12," Griffey said as he walked out of the clubhouse.
Other than that, just another typical day in baseball, right?
"It's so much the same as the Minor Leagues, as far as the game," Bruce said. "It's just got a lot more fans, bigger stands, and better uniforms and stuff. And you're playing with freaking legends and superstars."