BALTIMORE — As Jay Bruce approaches a return to the Mets, he is doing so with a new position designation: rightfield/first base. Or maybe even first base/rightfield.
Either way, first base will be a renewed focus for Bruce the rest of the season, including this week during his minor-league rehabilitation assignment, as the Mets try to figure out what to do at first and other positions in 2019. He played five innings in right for high Class A St. Lucie on Tuesday, going 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout.
“We want to see him at first to kind of evaluate where we’re at this offseason for acquisition purposes,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “We might see him a little more at first than 50-50, but we’ll have to see what happens. All along, we kind of knew that that was in the future. We’re just not sure how soon that’s going to be.”
Bruce has been out since June 18 with a strained right hip, but the down time has also been good for his plantar fasciitis, Callaway said. The manager added that the physical issues probably contributed to what has been the worst offensive season of Bruce’s career: a .212/.292/.321 slash line with three home runs and 17 RBIs.
Don’t forget, Bruce and the Mets were initially so resistant to the stint on the disabled list that they sat him for three days before bringing him back for one game (0-for-4, three strikeouts). Only then did they decide some time off was necessary.
“These guys go out there every day and try to play through stuff, and I realize that he was doing that. They try to be tough and tell you that they’re fine when maybe sometimes they aren’t. I’m sure it contributed to it some. I’m sure he’s going to be glad to be out there healthy again and be able to run the way he’s capable of.”
Bruce has played 18 games at first in the majors, including three this season, but has encountered back tightness that he believed was the result of the different movements required at the position. During his rehab assignment — which will last at least six days, according to the tentative plan Callaway sketched out — Bruce will split time between right and first.
Since Callaway noted that he and pitching coach Dave Eiland have self-imposed rules guiding the way they use Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, the hurlers have been busy. Lugo has pitched in four of six games, Gsellman three of six — including both pitching Sunday and Monday. Each appearance has been just one inning, however.
Callaway declined to specify what the guidelines are.
“I think we probably need to keep that between Dave and I,” Callaway said. “We definitely have a plan for those guys.”
Anthony Swarzak (right shoulder inflammation) is not symptom free and has not started throwing. He is rehabbing in Port St. Lucie…Steven Matz (flexor pronator strain) is scheduled to pitch the opener of the Mets’ doubleheader Thursday against the Phillies. Corey Oswalt will pitch the second game.
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