Yankees' Star Praises Spring Invitee Jay Bruce: 'I'm Glad to Have Him Aboard'

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Most big-league hitters, even the best ones, have trouble when facing Gerrit Cole. After all, he's one of the best pitchers on the planet. 

That hasn't been the case for veteran outfielder Jay Bruce.

In 29 at-bats against Cole in his career, Bruce is hitting .308 (8-for-26) with a pair of home runs and a .995 OPS. The majority of those head-to-head battles came from 2013 to 2016 when Bruce was with the Cincinnati Reds and Cole was rising to stardom in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform.

One of the two home runs, however, came just last year when Bruce's Phillies visited Yankee Stadium in August.

"He's hit me quite well," Cole said in a Zoom call on Tuesday. "He's an intelligent guy, a pretty prolific home run hitter."

Cole won't be facing Bruce again any time soon because entering this spring, Bruce is his teammate. The 33-year-old headlines New York's list of non-roster invitees duking it out for roster spots at camp.

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Asked what Bruce can bring to this club if he makes the big-league roster, Cole said the slugger would be valuable both in his production at the plate as well as his ability to pass down knowledge from his 13 years of experience to New York's younger players.

"I think he's got probably a lot of knowledge from an approach standpoint, I've certainly been outsmarted by him and outexecuted by him before," Cole explained. "So there's got to be some value there that he can bring when he gets in the box, or he can share with other players. He's a really good player, a really nice guy. And so I'm glad to have him aboard."

Bruce has a legitimate shot to make the team, although there are no guarantees. The Yankees re-signed Brett Gardner on a one-year deal, making the signing official on Tuesday as Gardner appeared in pinstripes during New York's first full-squad workout of the spring. 

The veteran's versatility on defense, however, could possibly give him the edge over a left-handed hitter on the bench like Mike Tauchman or Mike Ford. Bruce can play in the corner outfield positions and he's capable of holding it down at first base as well. He participated in fielding drills at both those positions on Tuesday.

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