John Fay has a post in which he discusses some things he’s looking forward to seeing at spring training, including this nugget:

–Catching Jay Bruce in the hitting cage. I remember the first time I saw Josh Hamilton last year. I knew he was special after about eight swings. Bruce needs a good — maybe great spring — make the club. He’s certainly capable.

Well, I’d be excited about that, too. And I can’t necessarily say that Fay is wrong in his assessment about what Bruce needs to do to make the Opening Day roster.

But I can’t help but wonder why Bruce would need to have a great spring to make the club. Why would any team make a decision like that based on a few dozen ABs in spring against pitchers working on a changeup or a slider and AAA pitchers in split-squad games? It’s a terrible way to decide — after all, these players have a record and making important decisions based on spring play seems absurd.

Teams do it every year, though. Some guy will make the bullpen because he had an ERA of 0.43 in 11.2 spring innings, despite having a career ERA of 5.97 in six big league seasons.

If Jay Bruce isn’t ready, start him at AAA. If he is ready, put him on the major league roster and let him play every day. But don’t make that decision based upon his performance in the spring.

(For the record, I think he needs to be starting in center field on Opening Day.)

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Blame Chad for creating this mess. Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, "The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds" is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad's musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine. You can email Chad at

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6 Responses

  1. RedFuture

    While I think and hope you’re right about Bruce starting in CF, I think spring performance can indicate that a player is NOT ready. Yes, a great spring could easily fizzle in April, but a poor spring makes it imperative he goes back to Louisville to regain his confidence.

  2. Chris

    I think the spring can be important, especially in this case – just not spring statistics.

    Not only is there a new manager who hasn’t seen any of these guys up close before, the entire big league staff will be getting their first extended look at Bruce. Batting practice and practice performance, clubhouse response to success/failure, and even game stats – all that could make the difference in whether he makes the team or not.

    That may not be what Fay meant, of course.

  3. DevilsAdvocate

    I recall that Bruce had a very impressive spring last year against major-league pitching (as an A-ball player!) before being returned to minor-league camp. Ability- and confidence-wise, he is ready . . . I think the only thing that stands between him and an Opening-Day start is the whole ‘super-2’ thing, which could make him arbitration-eligible after just two seasons if he’s a major-leaguer from the beginning this year.

  4. ken

    I don’t think that’s right. The soonest he can be eligible for standard arb is after the 2010 season, and that’s only if he stays with the big league club for the duration. He could reach Super 2 eligibility if he starts in Louisville and is brought up before some time in June. Either way, we should have a very exciting and inexpensive player for the next few seasons.

  5. Y-City Jim

    He doesn’t need to have a great spring. In fact, great springs are overrated. How many times have you seem players have great springs and then do nothing once the regular season starts?

    Based on spring training stats, Dane Sardinha should have been the opening day catcher in 2005. Steve Smitherman should have been a starting outfielder in 2003. Brandon Larson should have been an All-Star 3B in 2004. Unfortunately in 2003, a great spring was the basis for Josias Manzanillo making the team.