SAN FRANCISCO — The Mets dealt for Jay Bruce at the trade deadline to help bolster a lineup that has struggled to hit its stride. But like so much with the Mets this season, things haven’t gone according to plan.
In his first 15 games since being traded from the Reds, Bruce hit .186 with two homers and six RBIs. And his slow start has only been magnified by injuries that weakened the lineup.
“I try and divorce myself from the results as much as possible,” Bruce said. “I try and stick to the process and prepare every single day, just to give myself a chance to be successful. I know, in my ninth year now, I understand the game and understand how it goes. No year’s ever the same. Like I said, you work every single day and be prepared for when the game starts.”
Manager Terry Collins recently approached Bruce about taking a mental breather, a day off to ease the pressures that can pile up during rough stretches at the plate. The answer: No thanks.
“He’s got a great demeanor,” hitting coach Kevin Long said. “He’s extremely confident. He feels good at the plate right now. His timing’s a little bit off, but he also knows that there’s 42 games left and a lot can be done.”
Besides, even with Bruce misfiring, his reputation alone adds a certain element to a banged-up Mets lineup that has been duct-taped together with the help of fill-ins from Triple-A Las Vegas.
“I know one thing: You could go over and ask their pitching coach and ask them if they’re worried about Jay Bruce, and the answer would be yes,” Collins said. “That’s what he does in the lineup.”
When Collins has suggested a day off, the reply has come back unchanged. Bruce feels physically strong. He doesn’t need a break.
“When I talked to him about some things, he says he feels good,” Collins said. “He doesn’t feel tired. Nothing’s wrong. He’s just not getting them barreled up. I told him, hopefully when we get some other pieces here, he’ll get some better pitches to hit. But we’ve just got to keep plugging.”
Bruce’s protection in the lineup primarily has been James Loney, who faded after a quick start to his Mets tenure. Mired in the Padres’ minor leagues, Loney wound up with the Mets when Lucas Duda went down with a stress fracture in his back. Loney ended his first month with the Mets hitting .294, but that production has slowed to a trickle. In August, which he has spent mostly hitting behind Bruce, Loney entered Thursday night batting .204 with an OPS of .426.
While his production has yet to catch up, Bruce has at least taken comfort in what he called an easy transition to the Mets. The Reds had been the only organization he had ever known, choosing him in the first round of the 2005 draft before overseeing his growth into an All-Star.
“These guys have made it very, very easy on me,” Bruce said. “There’s some very good guys here. And from the hours of 7 to 10, when we’re out here playing a game, those three hours plus or minus, it’s baseball. That’s what I look forward to. It’s an easy group of guys to get along with. The integration has been super, super smooth.”
Despite his struggles, Bruce is encouraged by his at-bats. He believes the results eventually will match the process.
“I feel great, yeah, I feel very good,” he said. “The hits haven’t been plentiful for me, but I feel like I’m being aggressive, I’m not striking out a ton, I’m putting the ball in play. The direction for the most part’s good. A little quick from time to time. But I feel very controlled in my at-bats.”