Jay Bruce carries the Reds to latest victory

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Jay Bruce’s burden is about to get lighter with Joey Votto expected to rejoin Cincinnati’s lineup Wednesday. Not that it’s bothered him so far.

Bruce hit a two-run homer that gave the Reds’ their only runs Tuesday in a 2-1 win over the Phillies.

It was Bruce’s third straight game with a homer. He’s hit .345 with 10 homers and 24 RBI in 22 games since Aug. 12, with the Votto-less Reds going 14-8 in that span.

Bruce is hardly a realistic MVP candidate with his .261 average and .340 OBP, but he’s been a consistent force in the middle of the Reds lineup for the first time this year. Last season, he busted out by hitting .342 with 12 homers and 33 RBI in May, but he didn’t hit better than .256 or post an OPS over .825 in any other month. This year, his worst OPS in a month is .755.

Barring an injury, Bruce will establish new career highs in both homers and RBI in a fourth straight season this year. He’s currently at 31 homers and 91 RBI after finishing last year with 32 homers and 97 RBI.

Royals sign Drew Storen to minor league deal

Drew Storen
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The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.

Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.

While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.