Inside Pitch: Bruce makes early impact
Rookie's debut impressing scouts and managers
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
Cincinnati rookie Jay Bruce made quite a Major League debut Tuesday night when he reached base five times in five plate appearances against Pittsburgh. Bruce had two singles, a double and a pair of walks during Cincinnati's 9-6 win, and while it was only one game, Reds fans aren't the only people who came away thinking Bruce may live up to the hype that preceded his arrival in the Queen City.
"I think [former All-Star Larry] Walker [is] a good comparison," said one National League scout who has watched Bruce in the Minor Leagues, during Spring Training and in his debut. "This kid has power to all fields, he can play all three [outfield] spots, and even though he's got a long swing, he can handle just about anything you throw at him and hit it hard."
The scout was most impressed to see Bruce battle Pittsburgh lefty Damaso Marte. Bruce, a left-handed hitter, singled to the opposite field off Marte in the sixth.
"He hits lefties as well as [right-handers]," the scout said. "He's like [Cincinnati first baseman Joey] Votto, he hits lefties even better than right-handers. Walker did that most of his career, and that's another thing that made him such a great hitter. For this kid [Bruce] to be doing that already, at what, 21 [years old], is impressive."
Bruce, the organization's top Draft pick in 2005 (12th overall), is rated 2008's best prospect in all of baseball. He was named Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year last year.
Bruce was hitting .364 with 10 home runs, nine doubles, five triples, eight stolen bases and 37 RBIs in 49 games at Triple-A Louisville with a nine-game hitting streak when he got the call to come to Cincinnati.
"That's probably as good of a debut I've ever seen," said Reds manager Dusty Baker, a veteran of 40 big league seasons. "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."
• If Scott Hatteberg, designated for assignment Wednesday by the Reds to clear a roster spot for Bruce, isn't picked up by another team, Cincinnati would be responsible for paying the remainder of his $1.85 million salary for this season.
Hatteberg was batting .173 with no home runs and seven RBIs in 34 games. The 38-year-old's playing time became very limited early on once the rookie Votto became the everyday first baseman. Hatteberg batted .310 last season.
"He's a [designated hitter] or first baseman," said one scout. "He'll land somewhere. The Mets could use him. Oakland or Seattle might be a fit."
The Reds haven't decided yet whether they are buyers or sellers, but some teams expect the Reds to move one or more veterans in the month ahead, though not necessarily Ken Griffey Jr. or Adam Dunn.
"I could see them moving [Javier] Valentin or [David] Ross," an official from another team said. "They aren't having good years, but both can hit and good-hitting catchers are hard to find."