Yankees’ Jay Bruce, 34, retires just weeks into 14th season

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Jay Bruce had seen enough. Having made the New York Yankees’ opening-day roster, he couldn’t stomach his poor start to the season.

So the three-time All-Star outfielder decided to retire Sunday, just 15 days past his 34th birthday.

“Just the consistent underperformance for me,” he said before the game against Tampa Bay, his voice quavering at times. “Felt like I wasn’t able to do it at a level that was acceptable for myself.”

Bruce informed Yankees manager Aaron Boone of his decision during a 20-minute meeting in the manager’s office on Friday, then made a public announcement before Sunday’s game. He received an ovation when shown on the video board before the eighth inning but did not get in the game.

Bruce went to spring training with the Yankees on a minor league contract and made the major league roster as a first baseman when Luke Voit injured a knee, earning a $1.35 million one-year deal.

He hit .118 with one homer and three RBIs in 39 plate appearances this year. He started the first eight games at first base but just two of the next seven. DJ LeMahieu shifted to first from second until Voit returns in a few weeks, and newly acquired Rougned Odor was inserted at second.

Bruce had a .244 average with 319 homers and 951 RBIs in 14 major league seasons with Cincinnati (2008-16), the New York Mets (2016-18), Cleveland (2017), Seattle (2019), Philadelphia (2019-20) and the Yankees.

“I was so lucky to have set a standard for myself throughout my career that was frankly very good most of the time,” he said. “And I don’t feel that I’m able to do that, and I think that was the determining factor and in the decision. And I feel good about that decision and I feel thankful honestly to myself that I could be honest enough with myself to to understand that it’s time for this chapter to close.”

Bruce’s best memory was his game-ending inning homer off Houston’s Tim Byrdak in 2010 that clinched Cincinnati’s first division title since 1995.

“The weirdest part about that is that I was 23 at the time and I thought stuff like that happened all the time,” he said. “To know that the single moment that I’m going to remember most of my career was 10 or 11 years ago now is pretty crazy. And looking back, it makes me appreciate everything else more because so much has happened since then. I’ve been included and around a lot of different, incredible situations.

“I saw Ken Griffey’s Jr.’s 600th home run, been part of multiple no-hitters, big games, with the Indians won 22 games in a row. I hit the walk-off double to win the 22nd game. I didn’t reach the top of the hill. I didn’t reach the pinnacle. I didn’t win that World Series, but that’s OK.”

Bruce spent 43 games with the Indians in 2017 after he was acquired from the Mets in a trade.

“He’s a great kid,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “He’s a fun kid to have around. We were only with him for a couple months, but that doesn’t mean you don’t become fond of somebody. He was a pleasure to be around.”

Bruce has become known for his graciousness and charitable work for the Arc of Greater Beaumont, Texas, and life skills department at West Brook High School.

“He’s going to be missed,” former Cincinnati teammate Joey Votto said, “whether it’s our banter back and forth or talking about the league or talking about hitting, improving, meeting challenges.”

Votto’s tribute was played on the video board before the eighth inning, and Bruce was applauded by both teams.

Bruce’s retirement will cost him $1,219,355 in salary for the remainder of the season. He talked proudly of signing the autograph wall in the Yankees clubhouse, a feature at new Yankee Stadium that opened in 2009.

“I chose the Yankees because it is the New York Yankees and because I believe that the guys in that room are as capable or more capable than anyone of winning a World Series,” he said. “I appreciate the opportunity that the Yankees gave me to come in and prove that I’m healthy enough to play. And even more than that, the staff here, they were just incredible in helping me work every single day to essentially learn a new position.”

Bruce isn’t sure what he will do next.

“My son starts kindergarten in August, so I will be shuttle service at the very least,” he said. “As far as baseball goes, I love baseball. I love it. Anyone who knows me knows that I am such a big fan of baseball. I always have been. I go home at night and I watch baseball. And some people think that’s crazy. Some people think it’s awesome. Who knows?”

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.