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OF Jay Bruce jokes about 'getting traded to Mets for over a year now'

NEW YORK -- One year after Jay Bruce nearly got traded to the New York Mets for Zack Wheeler, he finally put on the uniform Tuesday.

The Mets acquired Bruce from the Cincinnati Reds on Monday for prospects Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell.

Bruce makes his Mets debut on Tuesday night against the New York Yankees, batting third and starting in right field. He should soon slide to the cleanup spot behind Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes is out of the lineup for a third straight game because of the latest flare-up of his balky right quadriceps.

The Reds had bailed on trading Bruce to the Mets late in the process last year, and the Mets pivoted to acquire Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers.

"I feel like I've been getting traded to the Mets for over a year now," Bruce said. "You never know what's going to happen until it actually happens. Last year there was some crazy stuff during the deadline. I try not to jump to conclusions or assume anything. So I waited until I got the call. And when it happened, I was very, very excited.

"There were a lot of emotions. There's a group of guys I grew up with over there in Cincinnati -- and guys that I have a lot of respect for both on and off the field. But I'm in a new place and I get to know these guys, and it sounds like a great group of guys."

Cespedes produced superhuman numbers after arriving last season, allowing the Mets to become the first team in major league history to win a pennant after ranking last in MLB in runs scored on July 31.

Bruce arrives as the National League's RBI leader with 80. Asked whether he possibly could duplicate the type of jolt Cespedes provided in 2015, Bruce said: "The only responsibility that I feel is to be the best version of myself. I'm coming in to be a part of this team."

During an introductory meeting Tuesday, manager Terry Collins asked Bruce about his comfort level in center field. Bruce said he would be open to playing wherever the Mets needed him. Still, Collins indicated later in the afternoon that Bruce primarily would stick to right field for now. Bruce's 35 major league starts in center field all came in 2008.

The Mets have a glut of corner outfielders. But with Juan Lagares having undergone surgery Monday to repair a partially torn ligament in his left thumb, and with Justin Ruggiano being placed on the DL on Tuesday with a strained left hamstring, the Mets do not have a bona fide center fielder. Alejandro De Aza starts at the position on Tuesday. Collins plans to begin using Curtis Granderson there a fair amount beginning Wednesday.

Bruce is hitting .360 this season with runners in scoring position. That type of success will be welcome on the Mets, who entered Tuesday's game hitting an MLB-worst .205 with runners in scoring position.

Bruce hit a combined .222/.288/.406 in 2014 and 2015. He suggested his resurgence this year might be a product of feeling healthier.

"In 2014 I had knee surgery," he said. "And I'll never use that as an excuse as to why I actually struggled. But I think it created some bad habits and it kind of leaked into 2015 a little bit for me. I think this year some small, small changes that I actually noticed the past two years -- and being healthy -- is key. I feel like myself again."

Bruce recalled the Mets clinching the NL East title in Cincinnati last Sept. 26. He struck out to end that game, and was still raving about the final pitch of that game from now-teammate Jeurys Familia.

"The pitching staff here is unbelievable," Bruce said. "One of the dirtiest pitches I've ever been thrown was by Jeurys Familia."

Related Video
Bruce talks finally getting traded to Mets
Bruce talks finally getting traded to Mets
At his introductory news conference, Jay Bruce discusses nearly getting traded to the Mets last July for Zack Wheeler, then nearly getting traded by the Reds again during the offseason. The Mets acquired Bruce on Monday for Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell.

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