Only question about talented Bruce is how long he'll stay
By Marc Katz

Dayton Daily News

Jay Bruce had two hits Sunday, and ordinarily that would be a good thing for the Class A Midwest League Dayton Dragons.

The problem is, in June, Bruce hit .389 with 18 RBIs. In the first two days of July, he was 3-of-7 (.429). How long do you think the parent Reds are going to keep their No. 1 position player prospect in "low" Class A when he puts up numbers like those?

Dragons manager Billy Gardner Jr. still thinks he's going to keep the 19-year-old outfielder for the remainder of the season.

"There's no reason to rush him," Gardner said. "Jay's still only 19. And if we're in the hunt (for a playoff spot) in the second half, he'll be in a lot of games that matter. There also comes a point where you have to challenge a player."

In a previous Reds administration, and when the organization was trying to establish a team in Dayton, Austin Kearns stayed with the Dragons all of 2000, hitting .306 with 27 homers and 104 RBIs. That was Kearns' second straight full season at Class A.

The year before, Kearns hit .258 at Rockford, Ill., (the team that moved to Dayton) with 13 homers and 48 RBIs. Bruce already has 11 homers and 55 RBIs and was hitting .313 entering Monday night's game at Kane County.

In other words, he's well ahead of Kearns at the same time in their careers, and now Kearns is the regular right fielder for the Reds.

Here's hoping the Reds keep Bruce in Dayton the rest of the season, but don't be surprised if that doesn't happen.

Minor League News named Fifth Third Field one of the top 10 stadiums in the minors. Major guidelines included fan experience, features and facilities, and attendance. Four of the named stadiums were in Class AAA (Toledo, Albuquerque, Round Rock, Texas, and Oklahoma City), two in Class AA (Reading and Springfield, Mo.), one in high Class A (Stockton), Dayton in low Class A, Brooklyn in short-season Class A and the Independent team in Sauget, Ill.

How is it that Travis Wood's best pitch is the change-up? Most young guys throw hard and learn the soft stuff later.

"My high school coach showed me a grip, and my change-up has always been there for me," said Wood, who was taken out of Bryant High School in Little Rock, Ark., in the second round of last summer's first-year player draft.

He's a left-hander, 6-1 with a 3.82 ERA so far this season.

It's still very early in the second half, but it appears Dayton and Fort Wayne will be battling for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Division. West Michigan and Lansing have already qualified from the first half, leaving Dayton, Fort Wayne, South Bend and Southwest Michigan to fight over the final two playoff spots.

South Bend is off to a fast start in the second half and has dominated the Dragons. Likewise, the Dragons have dominated Southwest Michigan. That leaves the Wizards of Fort Wayne.

Unfortunately, only four games remain between the Dragons and Wizards, all at Fort Wayne on Aug. 14-17. In the first half, the teams met seven times, with Fort Wayne winning five.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2157