CINCINNATI -- Sunday had to have been a big tease for Jay Bruce. Bruce, the Reds' top outfield prospect, was on the field for pregame ceremonies to receive his award as the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year. He got to mingle in the home clubhouse and visited with familiar faces he knows on the team. But there was no locker or uniform waiting with his name on it. And there was no chance Bruce would make a big league debut against the Cubs, not even with Reds outfielders dropping like flies with injuries in recent weeks. The club already decided not to make the 20-year-old a September callup at the beginning of the month and stuck with that choice.
Did Bruce wish he could suit up and play? "Absolutely. Who doesn't?" Bruce said. "It's a lot different, too. The first time I was here, I really didn't know a lot of the guys. I was kind of star struck and everything. Now I know a majority of the people in here and have some sort of relationship with them, so I care a lot more about watching them play, watching them do well and succeed. I'm just ready to get up here and help the team out. Hopefully it's in the near future." The Reds' first-round Draft pick (12th overall) in 2005, Bruce advanced all the way from from Class A Sarasota to Triple-A Louisville this season. The lefty slugger batted .319 with 26 homers and 89 RBIs overall, with his 80 extra-base hits and 306 total bases ranked second among all Minor Leaguers. In a year where fellow 2005 first-rounders Justin Upton (Arizona, first overall) and Cameron Maybin (Detroit, 10th overall) made it to the Majors, Bruce would have to wait. At the time September callup decisions were made, Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn and Josh Hamilton were all healthy, and general manager Wayne Krivsky said there wouldn't be enough at-bats for Bruce, who accepted the front-office decision. He was asked if he was disappointed. "I don't know if 'disappointed' was the word," Bruce said. "I definitely wish I got called up, but I understood the situation with the outfielders and everything. You can't take anything away from anything those guys have done this year. They definitely earned their spots here." Instead, Bruce is gearing up to play for Team USA in a World Cup tournament at Taiwan from Nov. 6-18. After that, all he knows is that he will be invited to the big league camp as a non-roster player. He plans to battle for a spot on the team. "Whether or not I have chance to make the team, that's not going to even come into a factor," Bruce said. "I think that will play itself out, to be honest -- with the all the guys and situations. We'll have to wait and see." More honors: Second baseman Brandon Phillips was also recognized on the field and received a gift from the club to commemorate his 30 home run/30 stolen base season. A congratulatory message from former Reds 30-30 man Barry Larkin was read to Phillips by media relations director Rob Butcher. First baseman/outfielder Joey Votto was formally acknowledged as Louisville's Most Valuable Player and the International League's Rookie of the Year. A different lineup: On the last day of the season, the Reds went with a very unique starting lineup. Phillips and catchers Javier Valentin and David Ross were given days off. Center fielder Norris Hopper sat out with a sore groin. The lineup was: Jeff Keppinger, shortstop; Ryan Hanigan, catcher; Votto, left field; Edwin Encarnacion, third base; Jorge Cantu, first base; Buck Coats, center field; Jason Ellison, right field; and Pedro Lopez, second base.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.