While talking to Reds right fielder Jay Bruce on Saturday, he was rather candid about the season he’s had. I will have more on MLB.com/Reds.com later but Bruce said so much that I felt like some of it needed to be read on the blog.
Bruce entered Saturday batting .218/.294/.372 in 113 games with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs. He’s walked 44 times and struck out 128 times.
“I know it’s been miserable to watch for everybody. I understand it,” Bruce said. “It’s miserable for me to watch too. But I take a lot of pride in doing things the right way and never settling for whatever it is. Even when I had successful seasons, I felt like I was underachieving. These 400 or whatever at-bats of my hopefully 8,000 at-bat career or more – if this is going to bring something positive in the end, I’m willing to make the sacrifice for the bigger picture. It’s something right now that I take a lot of pride in finding those little, tiny nuances that are going to help me be a better player moving forward. People may not see it. Fans might not care. Fans want success right now and yesterday, the day before that and in April and May. I can’t blame them for that. That’s the whole point of the game, to be successful and win games. I’m working. That’s something I’m proud of.”
Bruce, of course, was on the DL from May 6-20 following arthroscopic surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee. He returned after an accelerated rehab process. He refused to use that as excuse for his poor play but admitted what manager Bryan Price said during his session today, that Bruce has been playing at less than 100 percent since his return.
“I think anyone who is familiar with the game of baseball and familiar with any type of surgery understands that there is period of time, ideally, where you have your surgery, you rest and you start rehabbing,” Bruce said. “There was no rest. I came back in two weeks, healthy enough to play. I’m a big believe that if you’re on the field, you’re expected to perform to a certain level. I haven’t been performing well. It’s led me to trying to do things with my swing, all kinds of stuff.”
On Thursday vs. the Cubs, Bruce tied a club record with a five strikeout game while going 0-for-5. It was a product of his season-long struggles and his latest efforts to tinker with his hitting approach.
“The other day when I struck out five times, my hands were six, seven or eight inches lower than they have been,” Bruce said. “I made the change myself. It was a test and it failed miserably. I’ll tell you what, I almost had a panic attack when I struck out the fifth time. It was the most embarrassing moment I’ve ever had on the field. It happens. It better not happen often, I’ll tell you that. You guys have talked to me for seven years now. I’m always trying to get better and create a better and cleaner path to the ball. It’s even more apparent when I’m not 100 percent that I need to do that. That’s the silver lining I’m taking out of all of this – really focusing and working on that. It can’t do anything but make me better.
“I’ve looked forward to taking the challenge head-on all year. It has not been fun. But it’s part of the game. I look forward to what’s going to come from it. Hopefully from today on, that’s something I continue to tell myself – that today is the day. You just have to keep working and not give into the frustration, to the pressure, to everything that comes with struggling and not being 100 percent.”
The news lately about Joey Votto had been mostly about progress but it appears to have slowed. Votto began taking ground balls on Wednesday but it appeared to not go well.
“It wasn’t as good a result as we had hoped,” Reds manager Bryan Price said on Friday at PNC Park. “There was still some fairly significant discomfort when he got lateral side-to-side so we had back off with that and stay with some strengthening and whatever the physical therapy protocols are. We hope when we get back there are some marked improvement. He took some light swings yesterday and he’ll be able to gradually increase baseball workload based on how he feels.”
As he has since going back on the DL July 8 with a distal strain of his left quadriceps, Votto did not travel with the club and remained in Cincinnati to continue his workouts.
Votto is eligible to return from the 60-day DL on Sept. 4 when the Reds will have 23 games left. While the club has maintained it expected him to play again this season, I asked Price if they would shut Votto down if they were no longer in contention.
“Well, I think that’s a great question. It’s a legitimate question,” Price replied. “The one thing we have to do is get him to the point where he can play. It’s a moot point until we get there. We don’t for sure when that time is going to be. That’s one thing about this particular injury – there’s no deadline as when he’s supposed to be physically capable of playing without re-injury, which takes us back to square one with the rehab. I think if he gets back to where he can play, he plays. That certainly could change with where we are in the standings and sitting down with the Dr. Kremchek and making a decision about what’s in the best interest of Joey moving forward.”
You may have read my story about Reds 2B Brandon Phillips becoming a 10-and-5 player on Tuesday. There aren’t many of those guys around in baseball, but more than I thought. Courtesy of MLB public relations, here is the current active 10-and-5 players in the league:
Jeremy Affeldt, SF
Miguel Cabrera, DET
Bruce Chen, KC
Matt Holliday, STL
Derek Jeter, NYY
Paul Konerko, CWS
Joe Mauer, MIN
Yadier Molina, STL
David Ortiz, BOS
Brandon Phillips, CIN
Alex Rodriguez, NYY
Jimmy Rollins, PHI
CC Sabathia, NYY
Mark Teixeira, NYY
Chase Utley, PHI
David Wright, NYM
**UPDATE: A couple of hours after this post went live, Chen was designated for assignment by the Royals. Of everyone on this list, he had been the most surprising. I didn’t realize he spent at least five seasons with the Royals.
In a 7-5 Reds win over the Cubs on Wednesday, the big inning was the bottom of the fourth. It started when Kristopher Negron hit a single through the middle towards left-center field. Negron never slowed and ran to second base with a double. A small play at the time, it proved big when Negron scored on a Skip Schumaker single. Cincinnati would send nine to the plate and score four runs.
“It was a hustle double,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “He never broke stride from what I saw. I thought he was thinking double the entire way. That’s how you do it. Even a base hit directly in front of the left fielder, you go hard until the outfielders make you stop. It’s a great habit, a great thing to do. Of course, it’s a great Pete Rose trademark right there to make the outfielder stop you. In that case, they weren’t able to stop Kris and it ended up being a really important play for us.”
Reds starting pitcher Mat Latos is also impressed with Negron.
“He also turned a really good double play [in the first inning],” Latos said. “He also made a nice dive at third on a left-handed hitter and he’s playing up. I like the way the guy plays. It’s about all I can say. When he does get a chance to be in the lineup on a consistent basis, he hasn’t let anybody down. Sure, he’s going to have his 1-for-4, 0-for-4, 0-for-3, everybody has that. But he takes full advantage of it. I like it. I like the way he plays. He’s scrappy. He knows the game real well and he’s a dirty player, I like it.”
Negron, who started at third base for the second-straight game, is batting .273 in 31 games since his July 10 call-up. Over his last 10 games, he’s batting .333 (9-for-27) with one homer and three RBIs.
*Devin Mesoraco had two hits and a HBP to snap his 0-for-11 streak and 1-for-32 stretch.
*Billy Hamilton stole his 50th bases of the season, becoming only the ninth player in Reds history to achieve the feat. Manny Randhawa wrote about Hamilton’s steal on Reds.com.
*Chris Heisey hit a pinch-hit, leadoff homer in the bottom of the eighth. It was Heisey’s third pinch-hit homer of the season and the ninth of his career.
Reds 1B Joey Votto, who has been on the disabled list since July 8 with a distal strain of his left quadriceps, had a bat in his hands and a glove under his arm. The glove had a ball inside of it. And he was wearing his spikes.
It was the first signs that Votto was engaged in baseball activity again.
“I’m taking some dry swings and throwing,” Votto said.
Dry swings are simply swinging the bat without hitting a ball. Votto says he’ll take a swing here and there during breaks in the weight room.
“You can’t go from zero-to-100 at once,” Votto said.
*Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco is getting his usual night off with Brayan Pena catching for starter Johnny Cueto. The day off might be a good time for Mesoraco, who is 0-for-11 on the home stand and 1-for-his-last-32. It’s dropped his average from .301 to .273.
“It’s not so much the day off, it’s really getting back to being himself at the plate,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “He’s doing a nice job behind the plate blocking. I don’t know if anybody is taking a lot of notice but he’s doing a terrific job behind the plate blocking and throwing. He’s much improved, as is Brayan Pena, in large part to the work done with [catching coach] Mike Stefanski. I’m really happy with that. However, he has struggled with the bat here. A little bit more time addressing that with Don and Lee probably is helpful.”