Jay Bruce made a surprise appearance Sunday at the Cincinnati Reds’ spring training complex, two days before position players are due to report.
The Reds are in the middle of a youth movement, and Bruce was a huge part of the last rebuilding cycle. Bruce, who turns 29 the day before opening day, was thought to be moved to another organization for still younger prospects.
Two disappointing seasons in a row are a big reason why Bruce, the Reds’ top pick in the 2005 draft, is still on the roster.
“I’ve said all along that if I would have played better the last year and a half, two years, I would have already been traded. I’m honest with myself,” Bruce said. “I know good and well that I’m not the player last year and 2014. The only way I can prove that is to go out and actually do it and get back to the real me.”
His .217 batting average in 2014 and .226 batting average last year with strikeout totals of 149 and 145 caused his trade value to plummet. He also had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee in May 2014. He returned after two weeks, perhaps too soon.
“Until I walk out on the field opening day, as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, who knows what will happen but I’m a Red until I’m not,“ Bruce said. “This is all I know. It’s an interesting time for the franchise. It’s been a long time since we’ve been in the rebuilding process. I look forward to getting started and being a part of this thing. It would be awkward if this was another franchise that I was walking into.”
The reality that baseball is a business requires that management and players take trade rumors and speculation in stride.
“It is the terrain that we’re in now. There are no great secrets,” manager Bryan Price said. “It’s probably good for players, especially long -tenured players to know what you’re considering doing and why you are considering doing it. It is uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable to have players at the trade deadlines whose names are out there.”
Starting with Robert Stephenson, who has a chance to make the starting rotation out of spring training, there are several former Dayton Dragons starting pitchers getting close to the major leagues.
Sal Romano, Amir Garrett and Nick Travieso are in camp. Travieso is still on a minor league contract with an invitation to spring camp but Romano and Garrett are getting close.
“They are studs,” Price said of the trio.
Out in left field
Left field is an open audition with Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler and Yorman Rodriguez leading the competition.
“I hate to say they are favorites but they’ve done what they needed to do at Triple A,” Price said.
Former Dragons Kyle Waldrop and Jesse Winker also are in the mix.
Winker is not on the 40-man roster but the supplemental pick (49th) of the 2012 is close to the pack. In 2013 with Dayton,Winker hit .281 with 16 home runs and 76 RBIs. The 22-year old has not played at Triple A yet but could be a surprise.
There is also the possibility that Bruce could still be traded if the right deal comes along, which would open a spot in right field.
“I would not say Winkler can not make the team,” Price said. “Sometimes you feel like a guy’s ready. Right now I’d like to see him start the season at Triple A. I’d never say never with this kid. I know he’s a special talent.”