All hail the Jay Bruce express! Hop on the bandwagon now, because it’s filling up quick.
Bruce has been up-and-down all season long for the Reds…shoot, for his whole career. Yet the offense had never gone through an extended lull this season until Bruce went down.
The Reds offense had become stale over the past two weeks. Having two-and-a-half healthy outfielders will do that to a team (Chris Heisey had been playing banged up).
Bruce strained his right side in batting practice 12 games ago. Getting hurt in BP has to be one of the more disappointing ways to get hurt—especially in a playoff chase.
So the Reds had to labor through 12 games with nobody to replace Heisey, Jonny Gomes, and Drew Stubbs. Jim Edmonds and Laynce Nix are still recovering from injuries as well.
The Reds went 5-7 in Bruce’s absence.
He’s back now and came through in a big way Monday night. He belted a home run in his first at-bat since the injury, and added another one. He finished 3-4 with two HR and four RBI. Rust…what rust?
He picked up right where he left off prior to his injury. In the last four games before hurting his side, Bruce hit five homers and drove in eight runs.
After hitting a frightful .200 in the month of July, Bruuuuce has raised his average 24 points to .278 since then. He is beginning to hit lefties better and has really cut down on his strikeouts.
Before the All-Star game, Bruce whiffed 83 times. Since the break he has cut that number down to 36. He is getting much better at adjusting the big loop he has in his swing and it has helped his K rate immensely.
For the season Bruce is hitting .278 with 20 home runs and 61 RBI with a .346 OBP.
The time off might have given Bruce a chance to rest mentally.
“It helped me be more relaxed. That’s the biggest thing about hitting. You need to be relaxed up there. I guess that’s how I’m supposed to feel all the time. Hopefully I can feel that, know what it’s like and repeat it.”
The thing people forget about Bruce is that the guy is just 23. He’s been in the majors for two-plus years now, but is still younger than the average rookie.
His defense has been phenomenal. The cannon of an arm has mowed down plenty of baserunners and his coverage is excellent. He is one of the best defensive right fielders in today’s game.
He currently has alternated between the fifth and sixth spots in the lineup. The numbers are quite similar for him. He provides excellent protection for fellow sluggers Scott Rolen and Gomes.  Having Bruce at the six-spot is a huge luxury for any team.
Funny thing is, Bruce has really excelled in the lead-off spot. Sure he may not have much speed and the sample size is small…but check the numbers: 7-12 (.583), 4 HR, 7 RBI, 1.583 slugging percentage.
I’m not saying it should be a permanent move, but those are some impressive numbers. And it’s not like Brandon Phillips and Orlando Cabrera are lighting up the stolen base column.
Regardless of where Bruce hits in the lineup, the Reds need him badly.
The rotation for the playoffs is up in the air and the bullpen has been less than stellar of late.
What is the best medicine for these aliments? An explosive offense. The Reds have one when everybody is healthy.
As we come down the home stretch of the baseball season, Reds fans need to cross their fingers that Jay Bruce stays healthy. He will be essential to finishing off the Cardinals and beyond for the Reds.

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