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After reaching base in two of his three plate appearances on Friday, Jay Bruce is now slashing .400/.471/.867 this spring after signing a minor league contract with the Yankees last month.
With numbers like those, and a left-handed swing primed for the short porch in Yankee Stadium, Bruce is certainly forcing the Yankees to make the decision to have him on the roster on Opening Day.
“I know that I can help a team. I know that I can be a part of a winning team and help a team win a championship,” said Bruce. “So we’ll see what happens. What ends up happening here is partly up to me, obviously, but it’s up to the people making the decisions, as well, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”
One of those decisions has to do with Mike Tauchman, who is out of options. But Aaron Boone said he wants to have 13 bench players along with 13 pitchers. Brett Gardner and Kyle Higashioka are locks, and Tyler Wade is pretty close to one.
But Bruce said he “feels good,” “normal,” and “like myself," despite recent down seasons.
“I feel good. I obviously had some struggles the last three years. I do kind of give that to injuries. I feel like when I’m on the field and when I’m healthy I’m pretty much in line with my career numbers...
Obviously, there’s a reason I signed here. I felt like there was an opportunity to make the team and contribute. And not just make the team. I’ve been a pretty consistent contributor for a long time, and that’s what I’m here to do. I’m here to help any way that I can and be ready for whatever comes my way. Obviously, my role’s gonna be a little different than it has in the past, and I’m willing to accept that, and here we are. We’ll see what happens.”
And if the new shift rule in the minors come to the majors this year, Bruce will not be complaining, as he said he “selfishly” wouldn’t mind the shift axed in the bigs.
“The numbers for left-handed hitters over past seven years are glaring when it comes to the batting averages and the hits taken away. Obviously, there is a counter to that, using the whole field and everything. It’s not as easy as people say,” he said. “...The commissioner seems to have talked tirelessly about making the game more fun and creating more action. I feel like balls hit 105 mph that are caught by the second baseman playing 270 feet a lot of times, that takes excitement away from the game. I’m not one to gripe about the current situation… but if they do end up deciding to adopt that, I definitely would be someone that would benefit from it.”
And for those saying to “just slap it the other way” or to bunt down the third base line, get over it. Not happening.
And Bruce knows you’d attack him for shying away from his game, anyway.
“I’m in favor of [taking singles and upping batting average], but …if Jay Bruce is now a .270 hitter with 18 home runs, or 19 home runs, and 87 RBI as opposed to .250 with 30-something or 90-something, or 100, then you’re gonna be hearing people say ‘why don’t you hit for more power?’… It’s a double-edged sword, but I think at the end of the day, hitters are who they are, and there is definitely a place in the game for the guy who hits home runs, who drives runs in, and I think when you start taking that away, just not everyone is good enough to use the whole field the whole time, hit .290, hit 30 [home runs].”
Bruce’s 162-game average of 31 homers and 94 RBI in a season would not garner much complaints if he posted those numbers in the Bronx.