Bruce puts focus on field, not trade speculation

Two-time All-Star: Reds organization is 'much more to me than just a baseball team'

Bruce puts focus on field, not trade speculation

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jay Bruce simply could not wait to get to Reds camp.

This, even after a summer loaded with trade rumors and despite a winter of speculation that the right fielder would likely be moved to another team before Spring Training. Bruce got to Arizona on Saturday, reporting to the Reds' clubhouse to set up his locker at 9:30 p.m., when everyone else was long gone. He was back at the complex first thing Sunday morning to meet a host of new teammates and work out, two days ahead of the full-squad report date.

By the way, this is Bruce's 11th Spring Training with the organization since he was its first-round Draft pick in 2005.

"Which is kind of hard to believe," Bruce said of the time moving fast. "I feel great. I did my best not to think about [trade speculation]. Until Opening Day comes and I walk out onto the field in Cincinnati, who knows what's going to happen? I'm ready to go. I'm a Red until I'm not. It's business as usual for me."

But isn't it a little awkward? Not as far as Bruce was concerned.

"No, not at all," Bruce replied. "If it were somewhere else, it'd be awkward right now. This is what I know. This organization has been much more to me than just a baseball team. I've been here since I was 18 years old, and this is all I know. I look forward to still being here and if something does happen, I completely understand."

Outlook: Bruce, RF, CIN

The Reds decided to go into rebuild mode at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last summer, moving Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake. Rumors about Bruce percolated right up until the Deadline passed on July 31. They resumed after the World Series, when president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty and new general manager Dick Williams revealed the club would listen to offers for any of its veteran players.

Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier were traded for Minor Leaguers. Brandon Phillips blocked a potential deal with his no-trade rights. The corner outfielder free-agent market dragged late into the winter, which likely affected the trade market.

"I think it's the terrain we're in now," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "You'd love to be able to not have it out there. It's probably good at times for certain players to know -- especially guys that have been here, long-tenured players with an organization -- what you're considering doing and why you're considering doing it.

"It is uncomfortable to have players on your team at the Trade Deadline whose names are out there and are aware of the tenuous situation they're in. I'm sure it's very difficult for Walt, [Reds owner] Mr. [Bob] Castellini and now Dick to have it out there as well."

With about 20 young players he hadn't met before in the Reds clubhouse, Bruce set about introducing himself and helping rookies get comfortable. As long as he's with Cincinnati, he hopes he can be a veteran leader:

"I was lucky enough to learn from some really good people how to do that, mainly Scott Rolen," Bruce said. "He's a guy I always kind of go back to. I definitely know what it is to be a professional and what professionalism is and taking your job seriously, and representing the name on the front of your jersey as well as the name on the back of your jersey as best you can."

Bruce, who turns 29 on April 3, is owed $12.5 million in 2016 and has a $13 million club option for 2017 with a $1 million buyout. That affordability will make him an attractive piece for a team, especially if he starts this season strong after two disappointing years. Bruce batted .222/.288/.406 with 44 homers with 153 RBIs in 294 games from 2014-15.

"I'm honest with myself. I don't try to tell myself a lot of lies or dress anything up. Had I played better the last year and a half to two years, I would have definitely been moved," Bruce said. "That's just the way it is. That's the game. I know good and well that I'm not the player I was last year, and I'm not the player I was in 2014. The only way I can prove that is to go out and actually do that and get back to the real me."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.