Yankees manager Aaron Boone isn't giving up on Jay Bruce.
The veteran, filling in at first base for the injured slugger Luke Voit, hasn't had the best start to the season. Entering play on Sunday, Bruce is hitting .111 (3-for-27) over New York's first eight games. He has one home run in that span, along with a huge two-RBI single, but he's also punched out 10 times.
It's gotten to a point where Bruce was pushed back to the ninth spot in New York's order. He had hit as early as fifth earlier in the season.
"He's one of those guys that's got to get rolling at the plate," Boone said on Saturday after the Yankees' third loss in a row, falling 4-0 to the Rays in Tampa Bay.
Bruce's struggles have extended to his play on defense as well. A corner outfielder by trade, Bruce is still learning how to play first base at a high level. While he hasn't made any egregious errors, there's been a few balls in the dirt that he's been unable to pick on throws from around the diamond, plays that an elite first baseman would make with ease.
"I think he's done a lot of good things defensively and I do think he has some natural movements over there," Boone said. "Again, it's gaining that everyday experience that's hard to replicate. You've got to get reps where everything is second nature. The little nuances of the position become second nature. He's done a lot of good in that area, but obviously there's still room for growth."
Bruce is expected to start at first base for the rest of this month, filling in until Voit is able to return from left knee surgery. New York has Mike Ford—who was recalled on Friday from the Alternate Site, but didn't see the field—as well as infielder DJ LeMahieu as those that can play first.
The 34-year-old made a smooth play at first with ace Gerrit Cole on the mound on Tuesday. Moving to his right, Bruce scooped up a grounder and swiftly delivered an accurate throw to home plate to nail a runner trying to score from third.
Asked about his defense so far this year after that play, Bruce joked that there aren't many plays that he'll consider "easy" at first. That said, he's starting to notice some improvements.
"I'm definitely getting more used to it and it's starting to slow down for me some, I think that's the biggest thing," Bruce said. "I have the ability to do it. I think slowing the game down and understanding that the timing of everything and the positioning and the anticipation is something that is going to continue to come and the more I play it. So, I look forward to having having those those chances and opportunities and just want to continue to get better at it."
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