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'Humbled' Bruce addresses season-long slump

'Humbled' Bruce addresses season-long slump

PITTSBURGH -- Jay Bruce isn't going to take the easy way out, and manager Bryan Price wouldn't let him even if the Reds right fielder wanted to. Even as one of the most difficult seasons of his Major League career is winding down, Bruce will keep working to find a way to improve.

Bruce did not search softer words to self-describe the year he's had.

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"It's been miserable. It's honestly been the most embarrassing year of my life," Bruce said on Saturday. "But I know this isn't me. It's definitely humbling, not that I needed to be more humbled by anything. I feel like I'm pretty self-aware and have some humility.

"It's just one of those things. You have to find a way to take some positive out of it to get better. I think this is going to make me better."

Bruce entered Saturday batting .218/.294/.372 in 113 games with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs. He's walked 44 times and struck out 128 times. In the month of July, he batted .139/.209/.278.

Thursday vs. the Cubs was the low point of Bruce's season, when he went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts to complete a 3-for-25 homestand. It was a product of his season-long struggles and his latest efforts to tinker with his hitting approach.

"My hands were six, seven or eight inches lower than they have been. I made the change myself. It was a test and it failed miserably," Bruce said. "I'll tell you what, I almost had a panic attack when I struck out the fifth time. It was the most embarrassing moment I've ever had on the field. It happens. It better not happen often, I'll tell you that."

On Saturday, Price was asked if there were thoughts to give Bruce a rest from the lineup to regroup. Saturday marked the 27-year-old's 900th career game in right field, extending his own club record for the position.

"Truth be told, he's working on making some adjustments and he's not going to say it. He still has to deal with trying to get 100 percent on his knee, which won't happen until next year," Price said. "He's not going to complain about it. He's not going to complain about anything, he's just going to show up and play and play hard.

"There are going to be certain matchups that I'll give him a periodic day off, but I'm not trying to find reasons to get him out. ... You have your guys that you think are going to be your everyday players, you have to let them work through their challenges, and it's been a challenging year for Jay. That's an understatement."

Bruce was on the disabled list from May 6-20 following arthroscopic surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee. He returned after an accelerated rehab process, but he has always refused to use the injury as an excuse. Even while finally admitting he wasn't 100 percent himself, that no-excuse mantra remained.

"People play with injuries. People play through injuries," Bruce said. "I'm not injured, but it's not where it should be. I look forward to the offseason, getting home and having it get to 100 percent and coming back stronger than ever. It's just the strength and conditioning of it. It's just not there. That's what brings the consistency when you're staying on your back side. Something happens with the base of your swing. It's a big deal."

Bruce tells himself every morning that it will be the day his season-long slump ends, and that the adjustments he's made to his swing will finally pay off.

"You just have to keep working and not give into the frustration, to the pressure, to everything that comes with struggling and not being 100 percent," Bruce said. "I know it's been miserable to watch for everybody. I understand it. It's miserable for me to watch too. But I take a lot of pride in doing things the right way and never settling for whatever it is.

"Even when I had successful seasons, I felt like I was underachieving. These 400 or whatever at-bats of my hopefully 8,000 at-bat career or more -- if this is going to bring something positive in the end, I'm willing to make the sacrifice for the bigger picture."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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