CINCINNATI -- Coming off his rookie season for the Reds, Jay Bruce went home to Texas and did everything he could to relax.
The outfielder has hung out with friends and family, lifted weights and did some hunting and golfing.
Bruce has also done a lot of thinking.
"A lot of ups and a lot of downs," Bruce said of his 2008 season during Redsfest last weekend. "I was glad that I was healthy and got to build on quite a few at-bats in the big leagues. I wasn't satisfied at all. I was a little disappointed in the way the year ended. I took it for what it was and look forward to next year and getting this thing right."
In Cincinnati's final three-game series at St. Louis, Bruce went 0-for-11. It was the polar opposite of how he began his big league career in May when he went 13-for-22 (.591) over his first six games. There were several other extended slumps along the way.
Bruce batted .254 with 21 home runs and 52 RBIs in 108 games overall. He walked 33 times with 110 strikeouts in 452 plate appearances, showing that his pitch selection has room for improvement.
"I think it was good for me to deal with some adversity," Bruce said. "Honestly, it's the first time I've ever had to deal with it. It reiterated to me that baseball is a game of failure. It will give you a piece of humble pie more than you'd ever like. I just take it and know there will be ups and downs. I just try to be as consistent as I can."
Bruce's season was far from a failure. Still only 21 years old, he played with the pressure of being the most anticipated prospect and still posted respectable numbers. Once idol Ken Griffey Jr. and friend Adam Dunn were traded away midsummer, Bruce was often identified as the face of the next generation of Reds stars.
Bruce is far from the only face, however. He and fellow 2008 rookie Joey Votto should form a quality 1-2 lefty slugging punch for years to come. Brandon Phillips has developed into a right-handed-hitting force.
When Griffey was traded, Bruce took over right field and the superstar's No. 3 spot in the lineup. He confidently indicated he was open to taking on the responsibility of being one of the front-and-center guys. Fast forward to this offseason and Bruce seemed more interested in blending within a team seeking to start moving towards contending. "Hopefully, I'll let my play speak for itself," Bruce said. "I'll play the game the right way and respect the veterans because they deserve every bit of it. I'll let everything take care of itself. I want everyone to be going towards the same thing. Here, it's about winning, no matter how you get it done."