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Bruce targeting Tuesday return

Bruce targeting Tuesday return

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HOUSTON -- The ice pack was still wrapped around Jay Bruce's right hand, but the swelling was all but gone.

Bruce, who missed his third consecutive start on Monday because of a bruise on his hand, showed all indications that he would be back in the Reds' lineup and right field on Tuesday when they start a three-game series vs. the Cubs.

"That's the plan," Bruce said. "That's my goal, but I can't say definitely. It's continuing to get better. I'm doing the icing stuff to get it right and get back out there."

Bruce took 40 swings off a tee in the indoor batting cage on Monday afternoon and joined his team on the field for regular batting practice for the first time since Friday.

X-rays and an MRI on Saturday were negative after Bruce complained of soreness in his hand after a check swing in Friday's game. It was the same hand that was struck by a Yovani Gallardo fastball on Monday in Milwaukee.

The conditions for returning from an injury won't be optimal on Tuesday, with rain and chilly temperatures forecast in Chicago.

"We'll see. They've got some bad boys," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of the Cubs' pitchers. "Aches and pains and [Rich] Harden, [Ted] Lilly and [Carlos] Zambrano. I hope so, but if not, we'll go with our other dudes. We don't want this to be a chronic thing."

Bruce, who was able to pinch-run in Sunday's win, hasn't done much at the plate yet this season. In nine games, the 22-year-old is batting .176 (6-for-34) with one home run and five RBIs.

"The weird thing about it is I don't feel bad at the plate," Bruce said. "It's a few things here and there that I need to tighten up. Other than that, I feel good at the plate. It's important to get off to a fast start, but when you have so few at-bats, it's too hard to make a judgment on that."

Swinging too freely and expanding his strike zone has been Bruce's main hitting weakness since he came to the big leagues last season.

"I worked on that at Spring Training," Bruce said. "As I get more at-bats and get a little more comfortable at the plate, I think that's going to tone down a lot. I just need to slow everything down. I get too anxious. I want to do it too bad when I get up there sometimes. It's a matter of swinging at strikes."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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