Bruce trying to prove to Reds he is ready for The Show
Listen to this article or download audio file.Click-2-Listen

By Hal McCoy

Staff Writer

Sunday, March 02, 2008

DUNEDIN, Fla. Jay Bruce is growing a mustache, an attempt to make him look older and perhaps encourage management that he is older than his 20 years.

Bruce believes he is ready to primp and style in a major-league uniform, a Cincinnati Reds uniform, and hears people say, "Hey, he's only 20 years old. He can't be ready."

Bruce vehemently argues that point, both verbally and with his bat that produced a .500 (6 for 12) batting average in his first five spring exhibition games.

"If you're ready, you're ready," he said. "I don't care if you're 17, if you're ready. . ."

And Bruce says he isn't ready he is more than ready.

"I know I'm ready physically and I need to work on the mental part, but everybody always needs to work on the mental part of baseball," he said.

If Bruce makes the team and starts in center field ahead of Norris Hopper, the Reds have no legitimate leadoff batter. Early this spring, Bruce told manager Dusty Baker, "Mr. Baker, I can bat leadoff."

So it was a bit of a surprise Sunday when Bruce batted leadoff against the Toronto Blue Jays.

"Just trying stuff," said Baker. "That's what spring training is about. Bruce has been getting some hits and we're giving everybody an opportunity to see what they can do. We'll use what they've done in the past, what you see in the present and what you think they need to work on in the future."

Bruce, trying to show that the future is now, ripped a two-run double in the second inning off Toronto's A.J. Burnett, the first two runs of the Reds' 8-4 defeat.

After his double, Bruce walked to the clubhouse with a slight limp, a mild quadriceps strain that isn't expected to linger.

Bruce falls into that ever-present category: Nothing To Prove in the Minors. Both Baseball America and The Sporting News named him the Minor League Player of the Year after he tore up three levels last season Class A Sarasota (.325), Class AA Chattanooga (.333) and Class AAA Louisville (.305).

"I'm having a blast," he said. "Even though I've had some hits, I wouldn't say I'm scorching the ball yet. I'm making contact and finding some holes. I'm holding my own until I start driving the ball."

Bruce's last two hits came against lefthanders as he tries to prove that left is all right with him.

"Lefties don't bother me much any more," he said. "When I first started, I'd never get hits off lefthanders. I'd get myself out by swinging at bad pitches. I've convinced myself now that there is no difference and it has helped me a lot."

On days Adam Dunn doesn't play, he asks Bruce, "Get any hits?" Every day Bruce says, "Yep."

Bruce marveled when he watched Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn hit home runs Saturday and said, "Before the game, I asked Dunn if he was going to hit a home run and he said, 'Zero chance.' Then his first at-bat he hits one nine miles. Griffey and Dunn, man, they make it look so easy. And that's why they get paid the big bucks. Just two special players."

And Bruce hopes to make it three.