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Baker preaching patience to Bruce

Baker preaching patience to Bruce

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CINCINNATI -- Right fielder Jay Bruce is the Reds' leader with 12 home runs and that also ranks him fourth in the National League. Since the start of the season, he's also been counted on as a middle of the lineup mainstay.

However, Bruce is just 22 years old and still prone to mistakes that the Reds have to live with for now.

"That's the one thing Jay is still working on -- patience at the plate, which most young hitters have to work on," Reds manager Dusty Baker said Wednesday. "Right now, they're preying on his lack of patience."

Bruce is batting .239 with 25 RBIs. In 142 at-bats, he has struck out 31 times.

"I feel like I'm a complete hitter and that's what I will be," Bruce said. "I don't feel like I will be all power and no average. I want to have both. It's just about learning and getting experience and becoming a better baseball player."

The Reds are trying to compensate for the absence of top hitter Joey Votto, who normally bats third and two spots ahead of Bruce. For the last two games against Phillies lefty starters, Bruce batted fourth while Brandon Phillips batted third.

"He's trying to carry the load," Baker said of Bruce. "Ordinarily, I wouldn't have him in the fourth spot. But I want Brandon up there [third] against the left-handers. He'll probably hit third against righties and Brandon will hit third against lefties."

During Tuesday's 1-for-4 performance in a 4-3 Reds loss to the Phillies, Bruce hit a homer to right field and struck out three times. Once against starter Cole Hamels, he swung at a strike-three pitch in on his hands.

In the eighth against right-hander Ryan Madson, Bruce chased a 2-2 changeup that was way outside and struck out.

"The last couple of games, I'm not having as quality at-bats as I would like," Bruce said. "I feel like I'm hitting the ball and just missing a little bit. I'm not getting breaks I'd like to get. It will come. I have to take quality at-bats and stick with the approach. I have to not let not doing as well as I want get to me. Then you'd let it spiral out of control and it's even more of an uphill battle."

It was a better result Wednesday as Bruce went 2-for-4 in a 5-1 win over Philadelphia. Both hits came on 0-2 counts. In the third inning, he blooped an RBI single to right field. In the fifth vs. Jamie Moyer, Bruce fouled off six two-strike pitches and took two balls. On the 11th pitch, he hit a two-out double to the right-field corner.

Bruce also struck out two more times in the game.

"I have 450 at-bats left, probably. There is plenty of time to right the ship," Bruce said.

Pitching matchup
CIN: RHP Micah Owings (3-4, 3.95 ERA)
Owings made an extended emergency relief appearance in the Reds' 16-inning loss to Arizona on Saturday, allowing just one run -- albeit the game-winner -- on three hits and three walks over 5 2/3 innings. Before that, his last start was likely his best of the season, as he gave up one earned run and four hits during a 3-1 win over the D-backs. The righty, who took a shutout into the eighth, walked two, hit a batter and struck out four while throwing only 90 pitches. He also went 0-for-3 at the plate and fouled a ball off his right knee.

PHI: RHP Joe Blanton (1-3, 6.86 ERA)
With a doubleheader coming up the next day, Blanton gave the Phillies what they needed most in his start on Friday: five solid innings that kept them in the game long enough for to rally for the late victory. Admittedly, it wasn't pretty. In five innings against Washington, Blanton allowed four runs on five hits and walked six, one intentionally, while striking out five and raising his ERA to 6.86. But he only stumbled in one inning, giving up all four runs in that frame.

Reds notes
Willy Taveras snapped a 0-for-19 skid with a 2-for-3 game and two runs scored Wednesday. ... Brandon Phillips is the only player in the seven-year history at Great American Ball Park to hit triples in consecutive games. He did it for the second time on Tuesday and Wednesday against Philadelphia.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• MLB.TV

On radio
• WLW 700

Up next
• Friday: Reds (Bronson Arroyo, 5-3, 6.56) vs. Indians (Anthony Reyes, 1-1, 6.88), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Reds (Edinson Volquez, 4-2, 4.25) vs. Indians (David Huff, 0-1, 17.18), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Reds (Johnny Cueto, 4-2, 2.35) vs. Indians (Cliff Lee, 2-5, 2.90), 1:10 p.m. ET

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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