Jay Bruce saw the replay. His former Mets teammate, Michael Conforto, injured his shoulder on a swing Thursday afternoon and crumpled to the ground in the lefthanded batter’s box at Citi Field. Bruce shook his head as he described how he felt while looking at it.
“Seeing Conforto get hurt, man, that killed me,” Bruce said. “He was having a great year and he is, I feel, the next guy over there. It was bad to see that.”
Bruce said “over there” because he was in the visitor’s dugout at Yankee Stadium, having been dealt to the Indians on Aug. 9 in the dismantling of the Mets. Cleveland opened a three-game series against the Yankees on Monday night with a 6-2 win.
Bruce sounds thrilled to be away from the rip current of injuries that sucked under what was supposed to be a contender, even as he said he would be open to returning to the Mets in his upcoming free agency. He now is on a first-place team, and the defending American League champion Indians are 13-5 in the 18 games in which Bruce has played and 14-5 since the trade.
Bruce has been a big contributor with a .297 batting average, four home runs and 13 RBIs, and Indians manager Terry Francona said, “He’s been a joy. Everybody likes him. He fit in quickly.”
“It’s going great,” Bruce said. “I came into a pretty good situation as far as the team and winning and first place, and it’s been a seamless transition for me.”
After the Mets acquired Bruce from the Reds before the non-waiver trade deadline in 2016, he hit .183 with two homers and six RBIs in August. He said the media perception that his poor play was related to the trade was overblown and that “I was just bad at baseball for a month.” His solid September helped the Mets clinch a wild card.
“Going into spring training with the Mets, we thought we were a World Series contender. I still believe that, had the injuries not taken over,” Bruce said. “You go from a situation that we thought was going to be awesome — injuries derailed that — and came to a situation that was awesome. Adding to a team of this caliber is something I was very fortunate to be a part of.”
Bruce is aware of speculation that the Mets could have interest in signing him when he becomes a free agent after this season. “I enjoyed my time in New York, I really did,” he said. “There’s a great group of guys there. The talent is there. They have a nucleus. We’ll see what happens.”