Stephen Bruno Finds His Groove In Boise

CHICAGO — Stephen Bruno had been a .300 hitter his whole life but was struggling when short-season Boise started their season. He was crowding the plate and jamming himself.

That's when hitting coach Bill Buckner made a suggestion that turned around his season.

"Do me a favor," Buckner told Bruno. "Move off the plate a little bit."

Bruno followed the suggestion and wound up winning a batting title in his first pro season. The 5-foot-9 infielder hit .361 while leading the Northwest League in on-base percentage (.442). He scored 51 runs, which ranked second to teammate Gioskar Amaya and was third with 19 doubles.

Bruno batted .404 in August and then helped Boise advance to the league championship series.

"(Buckner) helped me out with the mental side of the game,'' Bruno told the Idaho Statesman. "He really emphasized getting a pitch to hit and a pitch to drive. If I didn't get that one pitch, don't be afraid to take a walk. He emphasized getting on base and really getting a good swing and that quality at-bats were the most important thing."

After trading for Ronald Torreyes last December, Cubs president Theo Epstein joked that "with the Red Sox, we had pretty good success with undersized second basemen.'' Bruno fits that mold.

He played third base at Virginia before the Cubs selected him in the seventh round last June. He was used all over the infield on a Boise team that also included highly regarded infielders Marco Hernandez, Jeimer Candelario and Amaya. He has the arm to play on the left side of the infield but may project best at second base.
Bruno, whose father pitched for Rutgers, passed on a chance to play for the Yankees out of Gloucester (N.J.) Catholic High as a 27th-round pick in 2009.

He figures to play for low Class A Kane County or high Class A Daytona next year. Wherever he goes, he'll remember what he was taught by Buckner.


• Righthander Jaye Chapman, acquired alongside Arodys Vizcaino from the Braves, was promoted from Double-A Tennessee in September and made a strong impression. He will compete for a bullpen job next season.

• Robert Whitenack, who was one of the organization's rising prospects before Tommy John surgery halfway through 2011, made 15 starts for Daytona after returning at mid-season. He was 1-6, 5.96.