Reds bench Bruce to 'clear his head'
Baker wants struggling outfielder to study other hitters
PHILADELPHIA -- Reds right fielder Jay Bruce wasn't just getting a night off against a left-handed pitcher on Thursday. There was more to it than that.Manager Dusty Baker plans to keep Bruce out of the lineup for Friday's series opener vs. the Mets, too. The 22-year-old Bruce entered Thursday batting .209 and hitless in his past 12 at-bats. On Thursday afternoon, Baker called Bruce into his office for a one-on-one meeting. "I'm letting him clear his head, much like Jimmy Rollins over here [with the Phillies] and Magglio Ordonez with the Tigers. I thought I'd give him today and [Friday] to clear himself and study," Baker said. "He'll study our guys, who's hitting and who's not and why. He'll study their guys like Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and different guys and see how they approach things and set up." The Phillies benched Rollins for four games late last month. After an 0-for-28 skid, Rollins snapped out of it and has been hot since. This isn't the first time that Baker has tried resting Bruce and having him watch other hitters. On June 7, Bruce sat and watched the game for a few innings to Baker's immediate right on the bench to soak up some knowledge. At the time, Bruce was in a 2-for-32 skid. "It's the first time I've ever really struggled," Bruce said. "I think it will be good for me in the end. I'm trying to concentrate more. I think concentration is the biggest thing. I'm really learning to concentrate and look for things that are going to happen. I'm trying to have as consistent approach as I can." Not only is his batting average low, but Bruce also has an on-base percentage of .285 and 62 strikeouts in 297 at-bats. However, he leads the Reds with 18 home runs and has 41 RBIs. Defensively, his rifle left arm has netted him 10 outfield assists, tied for the most in the Majors. "The big thing is the mind-set and staying positive and just not getting too down," Bruce said. "Mentally, sometimes it's the toughest thing to keep your morale up. Confidence is a huge part of this game." Chris Dickerson started in right field Thursday against the Phillies in Bruce's place. It's not yet known who make the start there Friday against the Mets. Since he batted .258 in April, Bruce's monthly numbers have been in steady decline. He batted .212 in May, .187 in June and is at .148 for July. "Sometimes you get into the funnel and it's like a hurricane or a tornado," Baker said. "I told him he didn't get in it in a month and he won't get out of it in a month. It's a slow steady process and you try to recall what your mind-set was when you didn't think anybody could get you out. You try to remove all doubt."
Bruce appeared as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of Thursday's 9-6 loss. On the first pitch, he hit a soft groundout to first base.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.