Jay Bruce played four innings at first base during Tuesday's win against the Astros.
"Well, no one got hurt, so that's a good sign," he said smiling after the game. "I've played first base a lot in my life, just not very much in the big leagues."
In an effort to create back-up options to Lucas Duda, Terry Collins said he approached Bruce about playing first base at the start of camp.
"I wasn't sure, being a veteran guy, being in his free agent year, how he would handle it," Collins told USA Today in late February. "But he came in, and has handled it great."
Mar 14, 2017; Jay Bruce fields a ground ball at first base during a spring training gamea at the Ballpark at the Palm Beaches. Credit: Jason Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce has not played first base regularly since his freshman year of high school. He made three appearances at first base for the Reds in 2014 and committed two errors, but it was an emergency situation after Joey Votto went down with a sudden injury.
Duda, who had two anti-inflammatory injections in his back and hip to start spring training, is 6-for-19 with two HR and six RBI in seven Grapefruit League games. He served as the designated hitter Tuesday, with Bruce starting in the field.
"Overall, I felt comfortable," Bruce said of Tuesday's experience playing first base. "It's definitely faster and it's different, but it was fun."
Bruce hit just .219 with a .294 OBP and .391 SLG with 8 HR and 19 RBI in 50 games for the Mets last season after being acquired from the Reds. However, despite hitting .480 with four HR during the final eight games of last season, at a time when the Mets were in a heated playoff race, he found himself the subject of countless off-season trade rumors.
"The whole time I just assumed I was going to be traded,'' Bruce told USA Today in late February. "I'm happy to be back. ... To win a World Series now, and to do it in New York City, can you imagine how special that would be?"
He looked pretty good Tuesday, or - I should say - he looked better than I thought he would look playing first base. He actually made a pretty nice scoop on a throw from Wilmer Flores behind third base. It was a short-hop, but Bruce picked it perfectly. He also did well fielding a ground ball to his right later in the game, which he flipped to Jacob deGrom for an out at first base.
All in all, while he's not going to win a Gold Glove, I was pleasantly surprised with his athleticism, awareness and ability to adjust to the speed of the position, which are three things I had clearly not been giving him enough credit for having in his arsenal. The point is, he can do this, which may be needed if Duda suffers another injury at a time when Flores is needed at another infield position.