For all the prospects that are on the cusp and that truly are only a phone call away this season, Reds outfielder Jay Bruce has some advice just for you.
“Don’t get caught up in it,” Bruce said. “Don’t play thinking about trying to get called up. I’ve seen guys trying to do that and it only hurts them.”
Baseball America’s 2007 Minor League Player of the Year entered last season as one of the biggest names to watch and then made his big league debut on May 27 before going on to hold is own the rest of the season.
Bruce’s advice, offered on a recent barnstorming tour through Double-A Carolina, was probably to be expected: Don’t think too much, don’t try too hard and don’t do all the silly, unnecessary things that at times may not seem silly or unnecessary in trying to impress the boss.
Thing is, Bruce lived it in 2008 as he experienced the highs and lows of his first tour of duty in the majors, a time when he cracked 21 home runs and finished fourth among rookies for the National League’s Jackie Robinson Award.
What a season it was.
He built a full head of steam at Triple-A Louisville and mounted an assault on the International League. In his wake he left a line of .364/.393/.630 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs. At the time of his promotion, he was leading the circuit in hitting and ranked third in slugging, fourth in runs scored (34) and fifth in RBIs.
His first homer in the majors came in his fourth game and he went on to hit .254/.314/.453 with 17 doubles and 52 RBIs.
“Everything you learn down there (in the minors), is important up here,” Bruce said. “I came up and I was doing well. Then I started swinging at some pitches in the dirt. And then all of a sudden, it was in the dirt, in the dirt, in the dirt. They kept throwing it there.
“Then I started making adjustments and laying off those pitches.”
In other words, it’s about ‘¦
“Who’s going to adjust the quickest,” Bruce said. “That’s the toughest thing to do in the big leagues. You just have to be ready to adjust your game plan.”
Even so, Bruce acknowledged that the speed of the game in the majors is still difficult to duplicate in the high minors.
But he let on that his trick of slowing the game down when he reached Double-A and then advanced in to Triple-A eventually became a beneficial in Cincinnati.
Despite committing just one error in his IL days, Bruce committed 11 in the majors. He had 11 hits in its first 19 at-bats upon reaching the big leagues, then had his stretches.
Fourteen of his home runs came in August and September, a nice improvement after his on-base and slugging percentages never rose above .282 or .384 in June and July.
“I tried to continue to do what I was doing,” Bruce said. “Sometimes you tend to rush things when you should slow things down. At times I put too much pressure on myself.”
Having a good time is the key, just as players should in the minors.
“You get to see a lot of cities. And you can get ahead of yourself sometimes and try to put the horse before the buggy,” Bruce said. “The big thing is to be patient and enjoy it.”