NEW YORK -- When Jay Bruce learned before Wednesday's stunning 4-3 loss to the Braves that he was out of the starting lineup for the third time in four games, he told Terry Collins "exactly what a manager wants to hear." Bruce acknowledged that he was not happy. But he said he respected Collins' decision, as aware as anyone of his 3-for-38 slump, which swelled to 3-for-39 when Bruce struck out while representing the winning run as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning.
This may not be what the Mets anticipated when they traded for Bruce on Aug. 1, but it has become reality for a team that entered Wednesday night tied with the Giants atop the National League Wild Card standings. Bruce, unhappy though he may be, has vowed not to become a disturbance.
"That just tells you he is in this for the team," Collins said. "He's one of those guys you just root for. You root for when he gets his next at-bat, he gets a big hit and gets it going."
It may be some time before Bruce earns that chance. A day after pinch-hitting for Bruce in Tuesday's 5-4 loss to the Braves, Collins left Bruce out of the starting lineup altogether, citing defensive reasons with Bartolo Colon pitching. Last weekend, Collins called Bruce's two-game rest a mental break for the outfielder, who hit .265 with 25 homers and an .875 OPS in 97 games this year with the Reds.
Since coming to New York, Bruce has batted .175 with four homers and a .540 OPS in 41 games. He is currently in an 0-for-14 funk.
"I definitely didn't draw it up like this coming over here," Bruce said. "It's been tough for me. But fortunately, the team's been playing really well. We've been winning games. We're in a good spot when it comes to the playoff race. I'm worried about the team."
With the Mets facing a left-handed pitcher in Adam Morgan on Thursday against the Phillies, Bruce may sit out that game as well. But he should be back in the lineup before long, hoping to lift a club that still harbors hope for his bat.
"I've talked to Jay enough to know that this guy is a bona-fide star," Collins said. "And bona-fide stars carry teams. Obviously, when you're a star, you take it upon yourself to say, 'Yup, I'll be the guy for you.' And he got off to a slow start. He's just been unable to get it going. But he still has a great outlook. He still believes he's going to be a big piece."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.