‘Feeling out of place’ Bruce goes hitless in Mets’ debut

Published 2:49 am Wednesday, August 3, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) — Jay Bruce stepped into the batter’s box for the first time wearing the New York Mets’ blue and orange, and the sellout crowd at Citi Field stood and greeted him with cries of “Bruuuce!” sounding as if at a Springsteen concert.

“I heard he’s kind of a big deal around here,” the All-Star outfielder said.

A day after he was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds, Bruce went 0 for 4 with a flyout, groundout and two called strikeouts in the New York Mets’ 7-1 Subway Series win over the Yankees on Tuesday night.

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“I felt a little out of place for the first couple of innings, honestly,” he said. “The way we won tonight obviously makes that 0 for 4 a little better.”

Bruce, who reported to the Mets on Tuesday along with returning pitcher Jon Niese, was drafted by the Reds in 2005 and made his big league debut with Cincinnati in 2008. But Cincinnati is among the worst National League teams and decided to deal him for infielder Dilson Herrera and left-hander Max Wotell.

Bruce took uniform No. 19 — Joey Votto’s number in Cincinnati — played right field and batted third.

“I know he was nervous,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “Even though he’s an experienced major league player and a star in the big leagues, going to a new town and all the hoopla and you want to make an instant impact. But he’ll settle in. He’s going to make a big difference in our club.”

Collins had tried to relieve any pressure felt.

“You’re not the savior. You’re a big, big piece,” Collins recalled telling him.

Bruce is batting .262 with 25 homers and 80s, the most in the NL at the time of the trade.

“There’s an instant kind of recharge to the battery, getting in there to a pennant race and playing baseball that matters,” he said.

Bruce has spent just one game in center field since 2008, so Collins put him in right and pulled Curtis Granderson — whose locker is in the same corner of the clubhouse as Bruce’s — from his starting lineup. Alejandro de Aza was in center and hit a go-ahead two-run homer. Michael Conforto was in left and had a pair of doubles.

With Yoenis Cespedes slowed by a quadriceps injury, Collins said the Cuban slugger will be a designated hitter from Wednesday through Sunday, when the Mets play in AL ballparks at the Yankees and Detroit.

Last year, Cespedes’ acquisition at the trade deadline sparked the Mets to their first NL pennant since 2000. Collins practically salivated at the thought of Cespedes and Bruce together in the batting order of New York, which entered with an NL-low .238 batting average.

“Tomorrow night when we get Ces’ back in there, I’ll tell you what, that’s going to be a unique looking lineup with those big bats in the middle,” the manager said.

Bruce received a welcome call from injured Mets captain David Wright. Bruce remembered striking out on the final pitch last September when the Mets clinched the NL East title with a win at Cincinnati and then celebrated.

“One of the dirtiest pitches I’ve ever been thrown was by Jeurys Familia,” he said of the Mets closer.

New York had long considered trying to acquire Bruce.

“I feel like I’ve been getting traded to the Mets for over a year now,” he said.

The 29-year-old, a three-time All-Star, has a contract that includes a team option for 2017. He’s not sure if he wants to live in Manhattan or the suburbs.

“I think New York can be as big and fast as you want it to be. I plan on finding my niche and just being myself,” he said. “I’m not going to have a car here, so I’m going to have to use a lot of different modes of transportation.”

Niese also has a housing decision to make. After the Mets traded the 29-year left-hander to Pittsburgh in December for Neil Walker, the second baseman signed a one-year sublease for the pitcher’s apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

“Knowing the type of guy Neil is, I highly doubt that he’s trashed it,” Niese said.

Niese, 8-6 with a 4.90 ERA, pitched the final two innings in his return and allowed Didi Gregorius’ ninth-inning homer. He joked that he was a boomerang: “Throw me out and I come right back again.”

He was asked about a comment he made last fall that appeared to criticize the Mets’ defense. He was quoted by Pittsburgh-area reporters as saying: “I’m sure what I’ll appreciate more than anything is the way they play defense. I’m looking forward to that.”

“All I really said was that I was excited to pitch in front of the Pirates’ defense,” Niese said Tuesday. “It’s unfortunate the way it got turned around, because it’s certainly not what I meant by it.”

Notes: The Mets recalled infielder Ty Kelly and left-hander Josh Edgin from Las Vegas, and they optioned outfielder Brandon Nimmo and right-hander Seth Lugo to the Triple-A team. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Monday, with a strained patella tendon in his left knee. Outfielder Justin Ruggiano was put on the 15-day DL with a strained left hamstring.