NEW YORK — After 14 big-league seasons, and 10 games in a Yankees uniform, Jay Bruce is retiring from Major League Baseball.
The veteran outfielder, who started this season as New York's everyday first baseman, will officially hang it up following Sunday's game at Yankee Stadium. It was a decision the 34-year-old made over the last few weeks, first presenting his plans during a lengthy conversation with Aaron Boone in the manager's office on Friday.
"The reason I ultimately chose to do this is because over 13 years of playing pretty much every single day, I set a standard of what I expected out of myself from a performance standpoint," Bruce said on Sunday afternoon. "I know there are ups and downs and ebbs and flows throughout a season and throughout a career, but ultimately, I just felt like I couldn't perform at the level that I expected out of myself."
Although the slugger earned a spot on New York's Opening Day roster during spring training, proving he was healthy and capable of playing multiple positions on defense, that success didn't exactly translate to the regular season.
Through 10 games, Bruce is hitting .118 (4-for-34) with one home run in a Yankees uniform. He's struck out 13 times in 39 plate appearances.
His first hit in pinstripes was a big one, a go-ahead two-run single on his birthday earlier this month, but Bruce never established any sort of rhythm at the plate, eventually losing his starting job.
The Yankees went on to acquire second baseman Rougned Odor in a trade with the Texas Rangers and with Luke Voit still working back from knee surgery, New York began to play DJ LeMahieu at first rather than Bruce over the last several games.
Bruce isn't in the starting lineup on Sunday once again, and Boone said he doesn't have anything special planned for the veteran's final game. Regardless of whether or not Bruce takes the field on Sunday, however, he's had one heck of a career at the big-league level.
The former first-round pick has played for six teams over the last 14 years, appearing in 1,650 games. Over his first nine seasons, all with the Cincinnati Reds, Bruce made three All-Star Games and earned two Silver Slugger Awards, solidifying his reputation as one of the best young outfielders in the sport.
He enters play on Sunday with 319 home runs in his career. That's the fifth-most of any active player in Major League Baseball.
With Bruce riding off into the sunset this early in the season, and Voit not quite ready to return from the injured list, New York has a decision to make. An off day on Monday will give Boone and the organization more time, but the skipper said Sunday that he isn't exactly sure who will fill Bruce's spot on the active roster.
"In the case of a [Mike] Ford or a Tyler Wade, they've got to be down a certain amount of time from their send down," Boone said, alluding to the 10-day rule for players optioned away from the big-league club. "So we'll have those conversations at the end of today and into the off day and see where we're at."
The logical choice would be to call up Ford, who plays first base and has the lefty power that Bruce was brought in to provide. Voit has resumed baseball activity since his surgery to repair a partial meniscus tear in his left knee, taking ground balls at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. The slugger is scheduled to start swinging a bat again early this week, per Boone.
The manager confirmed on Saturday that New York is "committed" to using LeMahieu at first and Odor at second going forward. Therefore, the player that gets called up to fill Bruce's spot would join the club in nothing more than a bench role. For a team that's lost seven of their last nine games, entering play Sunday with the worst record (5-9) in the American League, any sort of spark on offense would be welcomed.
Bruce isn't sure what's next for him as he walks away from the game of baseball. He's eager to spend time with his family—mentioning his son starts kindergarten in the fall—while also explaining that he wouldn't mind impacting an organization in another way down the road because of how much he loves this game.
He's at peace with his decision to retire, though. Even if Bruce had other options this offseason, and could've signed with a different team where he'd have less pressure to produce, he has no regrets choosing the Yankees and will always cherish his time in pinstripes.
"I chose the Yankees because it's the New York Yankees and because I believe that the guys in that room are as capable or more capable than anyone of winning a World Series," Bruce said. "I think that anyone who's ever played baseball, seen a game or wanted to be a baseball player, whether they actively think it or not, they want to play for the Yankees. It's obviously the most storied franchise in the history of the game and I don't take for granted for one second putting the pinstripes on. It's gonna be a special memory for me, my last memory that I'll have playing baseball and I do not for one second undervalue the time that I spent here."
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