Numbers don't tell whole story on Bruce

Numbers don't tell whole story on Bruce

CINCINNATI -- Looking at his batting average, a lowly .188 heading into Wednesday, it would be easy to say Reds right fielder Jay Bruce is in the same hitting wilderness as he was during his subpar 2009 season.

But Bruce hasn't been a lost ball in the tall weeds. He's scorched line drives more often, only to have the misfortune of a waiting glove that catches it. That changed some on Sunday, when Bruce hit two home runs vs. the Pirates. On Tuesday vs. the Dodgers, he hit an RBI triple in the second inning.

"For a few games, I was kind of feeling my swing through the zone. I'm getting back to just letting it go and swinging the bat with some authority," Bruce said on Wednesday. "I can't try to be guiding anything. I have to swing how I swing, get a good pitch to hit and try to hit it hard somewhere.

"If I hit the ball hard and it happens to get caught, it gets caught. As long as I'm hitting the ball hard and not giving away at-bats, I feel good about it."

Bruce has also improved his pitch selection and has taken several key walks of late. His walk in the eighth inning on Tuesday led to the game-winning runs. He came into Wednesday with five walks and 11 strikeouts. Manager Dusty Baker still believes the 23-year-old Bruce, who batted .223 with 22 homers in 2009, has a high ceiling as he develops while in the Majors.

"He's probably been our toughest luck guy here, without a doubt," Baker said. "This is why we'll probably stick with him longer than probably anybody out there. He's the youngest and the guy with the highest ceiling for the longest period of time because of his age, his strength, his ability, his speed, his arm strength. He works hard to be a good right fielder."

Defensively, Bruce has made several good plays already this season and takes a lot of pride in his work in the field. In the top of the eighth on Tuesday, his backhanded catch on the run on a James Loney drive prevented the go-ahead run from scoring.

"Dusty always said if someone takes one from you, take two from them," Bruce said. "My job is to catch the ball and make all the plays I can and help the pitchers."