CINCINNATI — Jay Bruce’s self-analysis that he is embarrassed about his 2015 season drew a response from his manager, who said, “Jay’s best years are still ahead of him.”
Manager Bryan Price said he believes that Bruce’s remorse over his season means he is taking accountability. And that’s a good thing, the manly thing, the take responsibility thing.
BUT, AS PRICE said, Bruce shouldn’t take the team’s morbid season entirely on his shoulders. In short, he has no reason to feel embarrassed.
“He prides himself on a lot of things,” said Price. “If we were having a better season from a win-loss perspective he probably would feel somewhat differently about that.
“It is hard when you lose as frequently as we have. What he is doing is being accountable,” Price added. “Probably too accountable. His season is not a microcosm of our season. You look at what he has done this year from a run production standpoint. He has played outstanding right field. He is getting to his power again.
“HE REALLY MADE some good adjustments from last year and his strikeout ratio is down,” said Price. “It is not what you would call a season that we’ve come to know from Jay, but considering that the guy was hitting .160 in May he has come a long way.
“And I do believe his best years are ahead of him and I’m not saying that just to be able to say something nice about him,” he added. “The kid’s heart is in the right place and he wants to be a great player and he is making some really good adjustments to get back on top of his game.”
ASKED IF HE admires Bruce for what he said, Price said, “Absolutely. We know the terrain we are in. We’ve talked a lot about the five rookie starters. But that being said nobody has conceded that it is OK to be losing at this pace. What you are hearing from Jay is an accountability for not performing at his optimum level on a team that needs our players to perform at a higher level than we have.”
HOMER BAILEY HAS been playing catch for a couple of weeks now and told Price, “I feel like I never had surgery.”
Bailey is throwing 75 tosses at 75 feet these days and said, “Clean throws. Not babying it in there and not trying to throw it threw anybody. Just nice, crisp, easy throws.”
Price said Bailey told him he feels as if he can take the next step, like throwing breaking balls and do bullpens, all the things he is not allowed to do. But he feels he is capable of doing it.
BAILEY, THOUGH, IS not doing cart wheels or jumping for joy just yet. He remains cautious.
“Still early,” he said. “It is tough not being able to do more. Right now it is baby steps, feels like infant crawls. I don’t think I’ll be ready for a playoff push.”
The prognosis after his Tommy John surgery is that he’ll be back in the rotation by early to mid-May next season. And that hasn’t changed.
“I’ll be able to throw off a mound about spring training time, but we’re still shooting for early to mid-May, barring no setbacks.”
Asked how exciting it was to be able to just throw a baseball again, he said “You have no idea. There were a couple of weeks before I started throwing that I could do anything and everything I want to do, except throw a baseball. We always want what we can’t have, right?”
PRICE, OF COUERSE, would love to have Bailey in the rotation on Opening Day, just to have his veteran presence.
“We have to have an experienced, veteran pitcher,” said Price. “As much as Jeff Pico, Mack Jenkins or I can have an influence on the pitchers, you have to have somebody living in the clubhouse with these guys to give them direction and create a connectivity among the group.
“They have to be the loudest voice among the five starters,” Price added. “Bronson Arroyo was able to do that with a soft voice, bu he was able to needle people to do things right. He could lead by example and he could give you a little bit of a needling to make sure you do the things you need to do as starter.”
PRICE IS CONFIDENT Bailey is the guy for the job.
“Homer is willing and he is capable,” said Price. “He is invested in the Reds and we are invested in him. It will be a lot easier when he is beside them pitching than it is when he is in the training room getting treatment. He is an essential, integral part of where we are headed with this young group.”