Taking Bruce's lineup spot, left fielder makes 2nd career homer a walk-off after being recalled
By Cody Pace
CINCINNATI -- The atmosphere in the Reds' clubhouse before Tuesday's game against the Cardinals was more like that of a funeral than a baseball game.
Faced with the business side of baseball following the trade of Jay Bruce, one of the team's undoubted leaders on and off the field, the players solemnly talked about what it meant to have played with Bruce and reminisced on what it would mean now that he's gone.
"It should be that way," said outfielder Scott Schebler, who was called up on Tuesday to take Bruce's spot in the lineup. "A guy like Jay? He made an impact on my career, and I was only around him for a month. A guy like that, it should be like that for him around here because he's done everything for this organization."
Tuesday quickly turned from reading Bruce's eulogy to singing the praises of Schebler, after he delivered a walk-off, three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off of Seung Hwan Oh to give the Reds a 7-5 win. It was Schebler's second career homer and second walk-off hit. He went 3-for-5.
"I didn't know if it was going to stay fair, so I kind of stood there longer than I wanted to, but it stayed fair," said Schebler, ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Reds' No. 18 prospect. "Got a good pitch to hit. That guy's tough. I didn't really see the first pitch too well, to be honest, and then I kind of, as I saw him, he threw me another fastball and another fastball, so I kind of adjusted, which was nice to see another fastball."
Beyond having to replace a fan favorite, Schebler's heroics also demonstrate his growth.
Schebler had a chance with the Major League club, mostly as a bench bat, coming out of Spring Training, but he was sent down in early May with a .188 average in 14 starts. Although he got off to a slow start in Triple-A Louisville, Schebler worked through his struggles and ended up with a .311 average with 13 homers in 75 games before Tuesday's callup.
"First time around was pretty humbling," Schebler said. "I'd never really struggled like that before. I kind of felt like I was slowly getting out of it, and then I got sent down, and then just to work through it down there, hopefully I'm better for it, because it did, it was very humbling the first time around."
Not every guy who goes down is able to find his way back to the Majors like Schebler, let alone be able to make the kind of splash that he did. One guy who knows about that is Tuesday's starter, Dan Straily, who has bounced among multiple teams and the Minors and Majors for much of his career.
"It's not easy going up and down, coming from a guy that's been there before," Straily said. "To go down, sometimes guys tend to struggle a little bit because they're frustrated that they're there, instead of just taking it for what it is and taking an opportunity to work on something, get better. Whether that was the case or not, he showed up tonight and had a real good night."
Schebler won't hit a walk-off homer every night, but this time, he's in the Majors to stay, and he will get an opportunity to play every day and fight through any future struggles that he may have, unlike his first stint with the team.
In doing so, he'll have a big hole to fill in the lineup with Bruce no longer around, but he knows that setting that kind of expectation for himself is unrealistic.
"Ending on a high note is always good, especially after a tough thing like [the Bruce trade]," Schebler said. "I'm not taking anybody's spot. I'm not trying to step into his shoes at all. That's too big of an order."
Cody Pace is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.