By JOE KAY
AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI -- Crusted shaving cream clung to the side of the red baseball cap hanging from the side of Jay Bruce's locker, a reminder of one of the best debuts in Cincinnati Reds history.
The 21-year-old center fielder isn't going to get rid of the cap -- or the grin -- anytime soon.
"Pretty much the only way I can go from here is down, but I'm not worried about it," Bruce said Wednesday, standing in front of the locker with that day-old cap.
Bruce got a face full of shaving cream from catcher David Ross while he was doing a postgame television interview Tuesday night. The former first-round draft pick was called up and went 3-for-3 in his big league debut with a pair of walks, a stolen base and two RBIs.
The 9-6 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates drew a 9.7 rating on Fox Ohio, making it the highest-rated Reds game on the sports network this season. Approximately 90,000 homes tuned in to see Bruce's debut.
They saw something extremely rare.
Bruce became the first Reds player to have three hits in his debut since Willie Greene did it on Sept. 1, 1992, against Montreal. The ball from Bruce's first hit, an opposite-field single, rested on a shelf of his locker Wednesday.
His new teammates were doing their best to keep him from getting a big head under that hat.
Before Tuesday's game, outfielders Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn were among those who persuaded him to lead the team onto the field. Bruce went along, only to discover after a few strides that he was the only one heading out. Everyone else was in the dugout laughing.
"They told me to run out and tip my hat," Bruce said. "Nobody else ran out."
Bruce caught on way too late.
"He almost had the cap off, too," Griffey said Wednesday, still enjoying the gag.
Ross smothered Bruce's face and hat on the field after the game. Rather than discard the stained cap, Bruce decided to make it a keepsake -- he'd never gotten a face full of shaving cream.
The teasing didn't stop there. While he was talking to a few reporters on Wednesday about the cap, teammate Jerry Hairston Jr. blurted out: "I could sell that on eBay right now."
The Reds' top prospect also got a lot of playful teasing in spring training, when he didn't hit very well, hurt his thigh and failed to make the team. The teasing resumed when he reached Cincinnati, in part because he seems to take it so well.
"They picked up where they left off," Bruce said. "I'm the butt of a lot of jokes. I like it, though. People are laughing. People are having a good time. That's the way it's supposed to be."
If he keeps it up, he'll be an overnight sensation. The 17,964 fans gave him a standing ovation and yelled "BRUUUUUCE!" every time he came to bat on Tuesday. It's been a long time since anyone was such a quick hit in Cincinnati.
"It was impressive," said Griffey, who got the same type of treatment when he was traded to the Reds in 2000. "It was fun to watch."