Jay Bruce seems to feel right at home at Citi Field. You can’t blame him though, since he almost came here last year at the deadline and the Mets inquired about him over the winter.
Simply put, he feels wanted.
“I feel like I’ve been getting traded to the Mets for over a year now,” Bruce said. “You never know what’s going to happen until it actually happens. Last year there was some crazy stuff during the deadline. I try not to jump to conclusions or assume anything. So I waited until I got the call. And when it happened, I was very, very excited.
“There were a lot of emotions. There’s a group of guys I grew up with over there in Cincinnati — and guys that I have a lot of respect for both on and off the field. But I’m in a new place and I get to know these guys, and it sounds like a great group of guys.”
And you can’t blame Bruce for being a little excited. He comes to New York from the also-ran Reds, so he’s now in the middle of the pennant race. With the Mets struggling for runs, his .265 average with 25 homers and 80 RBI will most definitely help.
But this season seems to be bringing out a different Bruce. The NL leader in RBI, he looks much stronger than the player the Mets inquired about a year ago.
“In 2014 I had knee surgery,” he said. “And I’ll never use that as an excuse as to why I actually struggled. But I think it created some bad habits and it kind of leaked into 2015 a little bit for me. I think this year some small, small changes that I actually noticed the past two years — and being healthy — is key. I feel like myself again.”
Great, the Mets are going to need him. Bruce is hitting No. 3 tonight and will probably be the cleanup hitter when Yoenis Cespedes is in the lineup, starting tomorrow.
But where he is going to play in the field is the biggest question. He did tell manager Terry Collins he could play center field, but Bruce has mainly been used as a right fielder in his career and for the time being will be playing in the No. 9 defensive slot.
“I told (Collins) that I would be more than willing and happy to play wherever he needed me,” Bruce said. “I don’t know if there is a clear cut centerfielder to this team and it’s not up to me to decide either, so I’m ready for wherever he puts me.”
On Day 1, Bruce seems more than happy. Now he is not going to be a savior. Bruce knows that. The Mets know that, heck, even the fan base can’t expect the 29 year-old Texan to come in and pull off what Cespedes did last season. It’s just not very fair.
Instead, it may make some more sense to accept Bruce for what he is: Another piece to the puzzle that will be may or may not be enough to bring the Mets into October.
But with the offense hitting .202 with runners in scoring position, the Mets need all the help they can get.
“I think when you have good players in the lineup, all that stuff is going to eventually even out,” Bruce said. “There are going to be some guys getting some big hits and string some hits together.”
And that’s what the Mets will have to do. Getting Bruce is definitely a positive for New York and having him in the lineup will help core runs, but the Amazin’s will need production from the other guys, who should be producing and not living up to the back of the baseball card.
That means Neil Walker, and Curtis Granderson, and Travis d’Arnaud. Michael Conforto needs to show something and the Mets should hope Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera come back in the next few weeks.
Then they may have a shot at making the Wild Card, but Bruce is a start and the Mets are better with him than they were before the deadline.
And that will make everyone feel right at home.