NEW YORK — If you told Jay Bruce when he was 18 years old that he would be the starting first baseman for the New York Yankees at 34, he wouldn't believe you.
Bruce didn't just start at first on Saturday, celebrating his 34th birthday, the veteran was instrumental in New York's first win of the year.
In the sixth inning, Bruce looped a bases-loaded, two-run single into shallow center field, his first hit and RBI in pinstripes. Those two runs, coming off Blue Jays left-hander Tim Mayza, proved to be the difference as the Yankees went on to win 5-3 over Toronto.
"I know that he's got really good stuff," Bruce said. "I was just trying to see something up and not walk off the plate with a slider. It wasn't the prettiest or hardest hit of all time, but I'll take every one I can get and it was timely and that's even more important."
Before the blooper base hit in the sixth, Bruce had started 0-for-5 in pinstripes dating back to Opening Day. That's not to say he hasn't been hitting the ball hard, though. Bruce nearly snuck one over the short porch in the seventh inning of Thursday's loss to Toronto, flying out to the warning track.
Although he hasn't had the hottest of starts to the season, Bruce knows how long each year is. After all, this is his 14th big-league season.
"Not a ton of results yet, but we're in game two," he said. "A lot of time left, and I'm just taking it day by day. It's a long season."
Bruce did it with the glove on Saturday as well. Ranging to his left down the first base line, the veteran scooped up a chopper from Toronto's young slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr., sliding over the first-base line. He swiftly popped up and tagged the bag to preserve a perfect outing for right-hander Jonathan Loaisiga in relief of starter Corey Kluber.
"The play at first was really good. A really tough play, I think tougher than it even looked," manager Aaron Boone said. "I liked when he got up, the wherewithal to know I got to get to the bag in a position if I can't beat him there to be ready to flip the ball. So I thought I thought it was a pretty good instinctual play."
Bruce was able to slot in as New York's starter at first base to begin the season in the wake of Luke Voit's left knee surgery. It's an injury that's expected to keep Voit sidelined through the first month of the year.
Until then, Bruce is cherishing his opportunity with the Yankees. Helping his new team win, in the earliest stage of its pursuit of a World Series title, was the perfect way to spend another birthday in the big leagues.
"Listen, I don't take any of this for granted," Bruce said. "This is another special one for me. I've been able to essentially spend every birthday since I was 21 or 22 years old on a Major League field. To be on a team of this caliber, with the storied franchise that it is, I'm just enjoying it."