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Reds' rookie Bruce has quite a week

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Reds' Jay Bruce has gotten off to quite a start for Cincinnati.

AP Sports Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- A young boy waited patiently near the visiting team's bus outside the Phillies' ballpark, hoping to get his baseball autographed by a certain player on the Cincinnati Reds.

Surely, the kid was looking for Junior. It's not often a soon-to-be member of the 600-home run club comes through town. Ken Griffey Jr. was one homer away from becoming the sixth player to reach that milestone.

"Nah, I want Jay Bruce," the 12-year-old said. "He's awesome."

A week into his major league career, Jay Bruce has quickly gained the respect of opposing fans by making it look easy at the plate. The 21-year-old outfielder entered Wednesday night's game against Philadelphia with a .552 (16-for-29) average, three homers and seven RBIs in his first eight games.

"I'm just trying to stick with an approach and help the team win doing whatever I can," Bruce said. "Whether it's getting on base or hitting a home run or making a good play in the outfield, it doesn't matter to me. I'm having a blast up here. It's been a lot of fun."

Reds manager Dusty Baker and Bruce's teammates are thrilled to have him. The rookie doesn't have an ounce of swagger and knows how to take a joke. He works hard, hustles and respects the game.

Bruce also has plenty of talent. He was considered one of the top prospects in the minors when the Reds called him up from Triple-A Louisville last week. At the time, Bruce was batting .364 with 10 homers.

Last year, Bruce made a fast climb from Class A to Triple-A, hitting a combined .319 with 26 homers and 89 RBIs. That sweet left-handed swing has translated into early success in the big leagues.

"He's been calm since he was first called up," Reds left fielder Adam Dunn said. "He hasn't changed anything. He came in and wanted to be treated like one of the guys. He's fitting right in. He's hitting the ball great right now and I hope he keeps it up. He has a whole lot of talent. He's a hard worker and wants to get better. He's been a great fit for our ballclub."

Bruce's debut was a memorable one. The former first-round draft pick went 3-for-3 with a pair of walks, a stolen base and two RBIs in a 9-6 win over Pittsburgh. Each time he came to the plate, fans at Great American Ball Park yelled "BRUUUUUCE!" the same way people shout for Bruce Springsteen at concerts.

Bruce became the first major-leaguer since 1977 to reach base in his first six plate appearances. He went 4-for-5 in his fourth game and hit his first homer the next day -- a solo shot to beat Atlanta in the 10th inning Saturday. Bruce went deep in three straight games and had at least two hits in five of his first eight games.

He had three hits off 300-game winner Tom Glavine and became the first player in 17 years to have at least 15 hits in his first 25 major league at-bats.

"Jay is off to a great start. He's in a good groove," Baker said. "He's a very confident hitter. He's relaxed and that's half the battle in hitting."

Bruce's approach is simple: See the ball, hit the ball. He's a studious player, though not a video junkie just yet.

"I take a look at (scouting reports) before I go up there. You have to adjust pitch to pitch. I just try to get a quality at-bat," Bruce said. "I do look at some video. I wouldn't say I live by it because I just got here. It's good to look at a pitcher, see what they got, see some of their tendencies. I like watching myself on video to see if it was a ball I swung at or if I dropped my hands or whatever."

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