"Baseball's like a puzzle that never has all the pieces," Bruce said. "You just keep rolling. I think that that's why you have to try and divorce yourself from the results as much as you can and really focus on the process, and preparing every single day, asking yourself if you're mentally and physically prepared to play. I feel like that's something that I do a good job of. I've been through it before."
There was a period from late August into early September during which Bruce indeed seemed comfortable with the Mets, batting .421 with two homers over a five-game stretch. But that hot streak ended as abruptly as it began; Bruce has since gone 3-for-25 without an extra-base hit. Batting in the middle of New York's offense, he has been invisible.
In that sense, Bruce would appear to be the poster child for manager Terry Collins' late-season mantra of, "You hit, you play." But unlike Travis d'Arnaud, who has lost playing time due to a lack of production, Bruce has remained in the lineup on a near-daily basis. Speaking to him recently, Collins asked Bruce if he would benefit from a rest.
"I just told him that I didn't need any more time off," Bruce said. "I didn't need a break here or there, or whatever. I'm confident in my ability to get out of funks, and keep going forward. I also told him I completely understand that he has to put a lineup on the field that gives us the best chance to win. But I also feel like I'm one of the best nine options."
When asked about the possibility of benching Bruce, who is batting .192 with four homers in 36 games since joining the Mets, Collins indicated he doesn't have a replacement that "you're confident can get the job done." It was an indirect jab at Michael Conforto, the Mets' twice-demoted corner outfielder who has not started since Sept. 5. Given sporadic playing time, Conforto is 0-for-his-last-9. But he was also one of the Mets' most dangerous hitters down the stretch last season, and as recently as mid-May. (Alejandro De Aza, one of the Mets' top left-handed bench bats, is another option.)
At this point, it hardly matters; Collins has made it clear he plans to ride Bruce to the finish -- good or bad. He is placing faith in Bruce's ability to work his own way out of slumps. But the Mets can ill afford more lost opportunities in the middle of their lineup.
"One of the things he's done throughout his entire career is played through things," Collins said. "He's been an everyday guy. He's never been a guy who sits very much, so he has the ability to fight through it. So I said, 'Look, we're going to run you in there this week and see if you can get something started.'"