MESA, Ariz. -- Sure, it's a lot to put on a player who will turn 23 next month, but Jay Bruce has become a very critical cog in the Reds' lineup. For it to be successful at producing, Bruce has to be producing. It's that simple. Therefore, it's optimistic for the club that Bruce has looked very good at the plate in the early going of Spring Training. Not that he's reading too much into it. "It's what, March 13? We have a little ways to go," Bruce said on Saturday. "But everything is going well."
Bruce is batting .357 (6-for-17) with a home run in seven games after he went 0-for-3 vs. the Cubs with a called strikeout and two flyouts in Saturday's 11-4 loss. In his two seasons with the Reds, Bruce has slugged 43 home runs and collected 110 RBIs. But he's looking to be a more complete hitter, especially after he batted a paltry .223 with 22 home runs, 58 RBIs and a .303 on-base percentage last season. Bruce also missed 57 games on the disabled list with a broken right wrist but came back a better and more selective hitter. He batted .326 (15-for-46) with four homers and 17 RBIs over his final 18 games. "I think the adjustments that I made last year are really going to carry over and help this year," said Bruce, who walked 38 times with 75 strikeouts in 2009. "Spring Training is about getting ready and getting locked in. I am getting some hits, but I am confident about what's been going on so far." The biggest change in Bruce's performance has been his approach to hitting. He's no longer beating himself at the plate by expanding his strike zone and chasing bad pitches. "This is just the beginning," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "I urged him to use that time off when he was injured to study -- study pitchers, study hitters, why guys are going good, why guys are going bad. I told him to get out of chase mode versus stalk and hunt mode. When you're in chase mode, they're going to get you out. That happens a lot of times when you're young and aggressive." Bruce said he doesn't feel any burden or pressure to get off to a fast start this season. And in the biggest difference between this spring and early last season, he doesn't feel compelled to swing at every pitch. That's something he's proud of. "I'm making a decision on the pitch I'm going to swing at. It's not so much of collision hitting this year," Bruce said. "It's more of having more time to make a decision. I've chased very few pitches. Everyone is going to chase some pitches or swing at bad pitches or strike out. I'm trying to cut down on that as much as I can. That's my goal."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.