Reds like Bruce's impact on field, in clubhouse
By CHRIS DABE
July, 28, 2008
HOUSTON - Sure-to-be Hall of Fame baseball player Ken Griffey Jr. has heard the story enough times to have a snappy reply.
Reminded that Beaumont-born Jay Bruce once tried to call Griffey at the Seattle Kingdome when he played for the Mariners, Griffey said "he doesn't have to do that anymore. He can call me anytime."
Now teammates with the Cincinnati Reds, Bruce no longer looks to Griffey as an idol he tried to get on the phone. And the Reds look to Bruce as a humble and eager rookie willing to do what is necessary to succeed in the major leagues.
"We like having him around," said Griffey, in his 20th major league season and ninth with the Reds. "He comes to the ballpark and works hard. He's learning on the job. He doesn't know everybody here, so I help him as much as I can. He's well prepared day in and day out, so I don't have to worry about that."
Bruce committed a throwing error from center field in the first inning but singled and scored on a grand slam by Adam Dunn in the third inning of the Reds' 5-4 loss Monday against the Astros at Minute Maid Park. All told, he was 1-for-4.
The game was Bruce's first in the major league ballpark closest to his home town.
"Every day you play, you want to get a win," said Bruce, batting .264 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs in 55 games this season. "But it was good to come back and see family and friends and everything like that."
Bruce, who played his first major league game May 27, is expected to be in the starting lineup tonight when the Reds face Astros pitcher Brian Moehler. Bruce has never faced Moehler.
Before Monday's game, Bruce conducted a media interview that included five television cameras and about a dozen microphones. The attention, although, something Bruce continues to get used to, is something he appears to handle well.
Bruce said he put aside more than 70 tickets for family members and friends, many of whom sat in a section behind the Reds' third-base side dugout.
Bruce faced Roy Oswalt in his first three at-bats. He flied out to lead off the top of the first and reached on an infield single when a grounder bounced off the glove of a diving Lance Berkman near first base with one out in the third. He also flied out to end the fourth.
In the seventh, Bruce grounded out to second baseman Kazuo Matsui on the first pitch he saw from Geoff Geary to end the inning.
Dunn, a Texas native and Reds outfielder, said Bruce is mature beyond his 21 years of age.
"Me and him are so much different," said Dunn, himself a 21-year-old when he played his first major league game in 2001. "They had to watch me off the field. All he does is play video games."
Joey Votto, who like Bruce played a homecoming series when the Reds played in his native town of Toronto on June 24-26, has played with Bruce in the minor and major leagues.
"I think Jay has a good head on his shoulders," Votto said. "He's a guy who's coming here to work. He's not coming here to play and hang out with buddies and fool around and stuff. He's here to help the Cincinnati Reds win baseball games."