As expected, outfield prospect Jay Bruce will not break camp with the Cincinnati Reds.Bruce, the most notable among five of the Reds’ roster cuts on Thursday afternoon, was reassigned to minor league camp. The news was a disappointing for Bruce, who currently sits atop Baseball America’s 2008 Top Prospect List. “I knew what they'd tell me when I went in there," Bruce told MLB.com. “You don't want to get sent down. It's disappointing. But I will feed off of it, go to Louisville and play well.”
Following the Reds’ decision to deal last year's starting center fielder Josh Hamilton to the Texas Rangers, all signs pointed to Bruce taking over the center field job for the Reds headed into the season. And he turned some heads in the first week of Grapefruit League action, collecting hits in five consecutive games, gaining ground in a competitive positional battle with Ryan Freel and Norris Hopper. Dusty Baker, however, had other plans, urging management to pursue veteran outfielder Corey Patterson, who played for Baker during their days together with the Chicago Cubs. Patterson, signed to a minor league deal on March 3, has since made the quite impression on his former skipper after reporting to camp in excellent shape, batting .455 (10-for-22) to this point in spring training.Judging by Baker’s preference for experience over youth in the past, his loyalty towards Patterson, who is also expected to bat leadoff for the Reds despite a .298 career on-base percentage, is no surprise. Bruce did not have the strongest spring training, either, collecting 11 hits, a double and three RBIs in a team-leading 42 at-bats to finish his first major league camp with a line of .279/.286/.262. Still, if there was ever a player talented enough to break Baker, perhaps it was Bruce, who has rapidly ascended through the Reds’ minor league ladder since being drafted in the first round back in 2005. Rising from the Florida State League to Triple-A Louisville in 2007, he posted a .962 OPS with 26 home runs and 89 RBIs in 133 games combined over three minor league stops, earning Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year for his efforts.
While the decision to prolong his big-league debut will certainly garner its fair share of criticism, perhaps delaying Bruce’s arbitration clock from ticking will benefit the Reds in the future, anyway.
He is expected to begin the season at Triple-A Louisville.
Joining Bruce at Triple-A are outfielder Drew T. Anderson and reliever Marcus McBeth, who were optioned to Louisville Thursday. In addition, pitchers Josh Roenicke and Tom Shearn, a feel good story for the Reds last summer, were reassigned to the minor league camp as well.
Bruce hits a home run for the Louisville Bats in August of 2007.
Note: On Saturday, March 22, Tyler Hissey will appear on Sarasota Sunny 1220 Talk radio to discuss Major League Baseball, focusing on the Tampa Bay Rays.
Hissey will be on from 3:00 to 3:30 on Sports Café, hosted by Sean Duade. Click here to listen live.