Bruce shifts focus to proving he belongs

Veteran ignores offseason rumors, looks to bounce back in first full season with Mets

Bruce shifts focus to proving he belongs

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Between juggling an infant baby and performing usual preparations for the upcoming season, Jay Bruce insists he never had much opportunity to reflect on the trade rumors that dogged him this offseason. So it was little surprise to Bruce that, when it came time to report to Spring Training, his GPS pointed to Mets camp.

"I had a pretty easy time with it, to be honest with you," Bruce said Thursday after arriving at Tradition Field. "I had a lot of stuff going on in the offseason so I wasn't too concerned. I've been going through trade rumors for basically two full years now so it was nothing new. I'm definitely of the mindset these days, and at this point, that nothing is done until it's done. So here I am. I'm happy to be here and I look forward to the season."

A disappointment to Mets fans following his Aug. 1 trade from the Reds, Bruce batted just .219 with eight home runs in 50 games. That prompted a wave of speculation that the team would trade him this offseason, given a crowded outfield situation that also includes Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto and Juan Lagares.

But the Mets never could complete a deal, due in part to the glut of power outfielders on the trade market. They announced in late January that they planned to keep Bruce, who now must prove to the Mets that he can be an impact player for them in right field.

"I refuse to be a distraction in the clubhouse" Bruce said. "That's definitely not going to happen. Honestly, the only thing that's happened has been rumors. Nothing has come to fruition. Nothing has happened. So I'm here and I'm happy to be here, and I'll be here until I'm not."

Though Bruce is the Mets' everyday right fielder, manager Terry Collins said earlier this week that he hopes to give the longtime corner outfielder reps at first base, as well. Upon reporting to camp Thursday, Bruce said he boasts little experience at the position, but is willing to play there if necessary.

Most likely, however, he'll remain in right field, joining Cespedes and Granderson in what could be one of baseball's top-slugging outfields. For that to happen, Bruce simply must overcome the struggles that plagued him late last summer.

"I do believe Jay came to a new team, fighting for the pennant," Collins said. "Obviously we got him because we had so many injuries and we needed that run-producing guy, and I just think he put undue pressure on himself to be the guy. You look at his numbers, he's a much, much better player than he showed in the first month that he was here. I just think he's going to … relax and we're going to see what we thought what we were going to get."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.