Bruce's time will come
Tuesday, April 15, 2008, 06:21 PM EST [Reds]
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Jay Bruce is anxious to get to the big leagues, but thatís nothing new.
ďI get anxious about everything. I have to step back and realize itís really early,Ē Bruce said before Mondayís doubleheader in Louisville. ďWhen the time comes, itíll come soon enough. I donít need to get in a hurry. My time will come.Ē
That, everyone is sure will be soon.
ďWhen heís ready to go up, heíll be ready to go up,Ē Bats manager Rick Sweet said Monday.
After Mondayís games, Bruce was hitting .298 with two home runs and seven RBIs. But heís also struck out 12 times in 47 at-bats.. He was 1-for-6 in Mondayís doubleheader with an RBI.
ďIím getting locked in, Iím still missing some pitches I should hit, but itís still early,Ē Bruce said.
Named the top prospect in baseball after last season, expectations are high for Bruce. He was invited to big league camp and used it to learn. Bruce got off to a hot start early in spring, but struggled after a strained quad in the second week of exhibition games. He finished the spring hitting .262 with 11 strikeouts and only one extra base hit in 42 at-bats.
Bruce, and many vocal Reds fans, was hoping heíd be on the Opening Day roster, but instead he started at Class AAA Louisville.
ďThere was definitely disappointment, but itís something I had to take in stride and understand theyíre going in a different direction at the time,Ē Bruce said. ďIím just going to come out here and play hard and push the envelope as much as I can and be ready when the time comes.Ē
Being ready is more than swinging the bat well, itís also finding a place to play. When Bruce is brought up to the Reds, itíll be to play, not just to fill out a uniform. Thatís why heís been getting seasoning at different positions. Although he is projected by most to be a right fielder, heís played quite a bit of center and even a smattering of games in left. He started the second game of Mondayís doubleheader in left.
ďItís funny, (last week) we were stretching and I always figure Iím playing center or right and one of the guys said I was playing left. I didnít believe them,Ē Bruce said. ďI asked Sweetie and he said I was. Youíve got to be ready for anything. I think everyone knows who is in right field, who is in left field and who is in center field (in Cincinnati). Those guys are moving. When the time comes for me to be there, I want to be ready to play anywhere. I want to be as comfortable as I can be at any position.Ē
To that end, Bruce has been keeping a close eye on the veterans at Louisville, like Jerry Hairston Jr., Jolbert Cabrera, Andy Phillips and Andy Green.
ďItís amazing what they know, just from being around the game,Ē Bruce said. ďJust being around, itís amazing what I donít know. You think you know a lot, I still have a lot to learn from the mental part, learning from Sweet and (hitting coach) Smokey (Garrett) and all the veteran guys. Itís just tendencies and situational stuff and where to throw the ball then. Itís second-nature to them and itís not quite second-nature to me but it should be.Ē
Whatís impressed some of those older guys is just how much is second-nature for Bruce, who celebrated his 21st birthday last week and is the youngest player on the Bats, nearly a full year younger than Homer Bailey and three years younger than the next-youngest Bat.
ďOne think Iím impressed with, his abilities are up there, but for such a young age, heís got a high baseball IQ, but he also knows he has a lot to learn. Heís getting a chance to play every day and develop. Heís going to be a special player for a lot of years,Ē said Hairston, who came up with the Orioles and said he learned at the feet of Cal Ripken Jr. and Brady Anderson. ď(Bruce) reminds me of Larry Walker. I got a chance to play against him and he reminds me of (Walker). Heís a Larry Walker-type player. Those are pretty big shoes to fill. Heís really young, and he has that buggy whip like Larry with the bat, he has a great arm and knows how to run the bases well, too. Larry Walker was always concerned with scoring runs, not so much average or stealing bases, itís about how many runs you score. Thatís big and thatís what made Larry a great player, he scored a lot of runs.Ē
Whenever he does make his debut in the big leagues, Sweet doesnít expect him to be back in Louisville.
ďHeís still 21, heís still young. But he can flat-out play this game, ď Sweet said. ďAnd he loves to play this game. Heís going to be fine.