Until Monday, a large photo of Jay Bruce graced the wall next to the elevator leading to the press box at Great American Ball Park. On Tuesday, as the Cincinnati Reds began a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Bruce’s photo and Bruce himself were gone.
Bruce started and hit third for the New York Mets on Tuesday night. His old club, the only team he has known, moved forward without its All-Star right fielder.
“We know it’s part of the business, but the business sucks,” shortstop Zack Cozart said. “It’s tough.”
The Reds traded Bruce on Monday for two minor-league prospects, infielder Dilson Herrera and pitcher Max Wotell. In their first game without Bruce, the Reds beat the Cardinals 7-5 on a three-run walk-off home run by Scott Schebler in the ninth.
Bruce hit .218 in July but also had eight home runs and 21 RBIs. He played a big part in the Reds going 13-11 in the month. It was their first winning month since they were 18-10 in June 2014. The Reds know they will miss Bruce’s production and his leadership.
“You know ultimately something is going to happen,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “It just stinks to see it actually happen. You hear the cliche term: a pro’s pro. It’s exactly what he was and still is. He was a guy I could ask any question to, on and off the field. He would have a great answer and an honest one. He gave me a lot of good information, being a younger guy in this league, about how to go about my business.”
Adam Duvall, who was playing left field but has some experience in right, will move to Bruce’s spot. The Reds promoted Schebler, who was hitting .311 with Triple-A Louisville, and plan to play him every day in left field.
“(Bruce was) one of the best clubhouse guys I’ve ever been around,” Schebler said. “He’s a better person than he is a player, and he’s a great player. He took me aside the first day of spring training. He was my catch partner, and I’m a new guy coming in, kind of a scrub. And he’s going to play catch with me? I’m not trying to fill any shoes. I know the clubhouse is hurting not having him here.”
Bruce ranks seventh in Reds history with 233 home runs, 11 behind George Foster and 23 ahead of Joey Votto. He will return to Cincinnati with the Mets for three games Sept. 5-7.
“We have a few veterans on this club who have been through this and understand the business nature of this whole thing,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “However, it doesn’t remove the emotional element. The bottom line is Jay Bruce is truly one of the great Reds of his generation. He played a terrific right field. He was a first-round draft pick, a highly-heralded player coming up through the system, and he got off to such a great start in 2008 when he came up.”