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April 25th, 2011 By Jason Gargano | Sports | Posted In: baseball

Will the Real Jay Bruce Please Stand Up?

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After a hot start, the Reds have lost eight of 11 and each of the last three series. It's not a good time to be falling flat — the surging Milwaukee Brewers host the Reds tonight, opening what could be a key, pysche-altering three-game series.

The Reds' recent struggles have been the result of shaky starting pitching — they're seemingly falling behind in every game, even the ones they end up winning — and inconsistent hitting from the guys batting behind Joey Votto. The pitching should be fine — Edinson Volquez looked as good as ever before making one big mistake yesterday, and remember that two-fifths of the expected rotation, Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey, have yet to pitch due to minor injuries — but two things have to happen if the Reds are to repeat as Central Division champs: 1) Scott Rolen has to play at least 120 games and 2) Jay Bruce has to start looking like he has a clue at the plate.

Votto, who's off to another MVP-worthy start, was walked five times in last weekend's three-game series with St. Louis — a strategy that will become more prevalent with Rolen on the DL with shoulder issues and with Jonny Gomes and Bruce hitting below .200 with runners in scoring position.

At this point it's pretty safe to say that we know who Gomes is: a streaky free swinger (who somehow is among the league leaders in walks, a trend I suspect will not continue) and a good clubhouse guy who always plays as if each game might be his last.

But who is the perpetually tantalizing/frustrating Bruce? Is he the guy who was on fire the first week of his MLB career and the last month of last year, or is he the guy who looks lost at the plate for prolonged periods of time (he has only four extra base hits and, according to FanGraphs Baseball, only three line drives in his 77 ABs this year).

Here's what we do know about Jay “But He's Only 24” Bruce: 1) He is going to be the Reds right fielder for several years to come, 2) he plays Gold Glove defense, 3) he's a good citizen who always says the right thing (often to the point of banality) and, most importantly at this date in time, 4) he will have to start producing with runners in scoring position, otherwise both Votto and the Reds will be stranded on an island of potential.

 
 
 
 
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