Figures as soon as Jay Bruce gets moved to the leadoff spot, he starts hitting like the middle-of-the-order presence we’ve all been waiting for.
Bruce homered in three straight at-bats and tied a career-high with five RBI in a 7-1 win over the Cubs on Friday night. None of them were cheapies, either. All three traveled over 400 feet.
Bruce is actually the second member of the Reds to hit three home runs in a game this season. Drew Stubbs hit three back on July 4, also against the Cubs.
The 23-year-old outfielder is now batting .270 with 16 homers, 55 RBI and a 790 OPS this season. The power has been largely absent this season, leading some to label him as a mild disappointment, but if there’s one thing to really be encouraged about, it’s the progress he has made against left-handed pitching.
Bruce is batting .257/.331/.479 with eight homers, 20 RBI and an 810 OPS against southpaws this season. All three homers on Friday night game off left-handers — two off Tom Gorzelanny, one off Scott Maine. Bruce told Jeff Wallner of MLB.com that he strives to be a complete player.
“I’m determined to prove that I can hit against left-handers,” Bruce
said. “I want to see my name in the lineup every day. I have a lot of
improving to do. I feel like I’m supposed to be a really, really
Bruce did most of the heavy lifting on Friday night, but Johnny Cueto was brilliant in his own right, tossing eight innings of one-run ball while striking out eight and walking none. The Cardinals ended a three-game losing streak with a win over the Nationals on Friday night, so the Reds remain four games in front in the National League Central.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.
There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.
Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.