By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Why wait until the report date? Reds outfielder Jay Bruce is ready to get started now.
Ready to build on his rookie season, Bruce got to town on Thursday night and was at the Reds' Spring Training complex on Friday morning. Position players aren't required to be in camp until Tuesday while pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Saturday.
"You want to see the guys again," Bruce said. "When it gets this close to Spring Training, you're ready to go."
Last year's top prospect in all of baseball entering the season, Bruce was a focal point despite not being assured of a roster spot. He competed to be the everyday center fielder but after a fast start, struggled to be consistent. His chances were greatly reduced further once veteran center fielder Corey Patterson was signed in early March.
Bruce was sent back to Triple-A during camp but came back up for good in late May. He finished his rookie season by batting .254 with 21 home runs and 52 RBIs in 108 games.
This year, Bruce is Cincinnati's everyday right fielder and won't be tasked with fighting for his place on the 25-man roster.
"It doesn't change too many things. I think it makes me not put so much pressure on myself," Bruce said. "Last year, I was trying to do too many things. Now, I'm not going to change a thing."
With his place assured, Bruce still doesn't plan on using his time in camp as a break from the golf course.
"I'm here to make the team every year," he said. "The way I look at, they're just not going to give you a spot. I'm excited to be here and I'm really ready to go. It's going to be an exciting year."
Like most Major Leaguers, Bruce committed himself to an offseason workout program and didn't wait until the opening of Spring Training to be in playing shape. He's been lifting, hitting and throwing for several weeks.
"I'm glad to here because I'm tired of lifting weights and doing the same thing every day," Bruce said.
I love this kids work ethic. Hard to tell if he's just trying to say the right things or he's really that kind of guy. I choose to believe the latter.
If he keeps up this kind of effort, I think a big step forward is possible for him.
Even if you hate the current direction of the team, He's a big bright spot.