BALTIMORE -- Sidelined since June 18 due to a sore right hip, Mets outfielder Jay Bruce began a Minor League rehab assignment Tuesday with Class A Advanced St. Lucie, batting third and playing right field.Bruce went 0-for-2 with a walk in three plate appearances and logged five innings in right
BALTIMORE -- Sidelined since June 18 due to a sore right hip, Mets outfielder Jay Bruce began a Minor League rehab assignment Tuesday with Class A Advanced St. Lucie, batting third and playing right field.
Bruce went 0-for-2 with a walk in three plate appearances and logged five innings in right vs. the Florida Fire Dogs.
The atypical part is yet to come. The Mets plan to play Bruce at first base during his rehab assignment, with an eye toward using him more regularly at that position upon his return to the big leagues. Bruce is tentatively scheduled to play first on Wednesday and serve as a designated hitter Thursday, then "kind of alternate back and forth" between right and first, according to manager Mickey Callaway.
"We want to see him at first to evaluate where we're at this offseason for acquisition purposes," Callaway said. "All along, we kind of knew that was in the future. We're just not sure how soon that's going to be."
Bruce, who spent 12 games at first base last year and three this season, has expressed a willingness, if not a preference, to play the position in the past. The Mets may ultimately need him to, with Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes all under team control through at least 2020. Although Cespedes is likely to begin next season on the DL, he should return at some point during the summer.
That would theoretically push Bruce to first, at least in a part-time role. Currently, Wilmer Flores is starting nearly every day at the position. Dominic Smith remains an option, but his poor season -- including a .183/.216/.324 slash line in 28 big league games -- has put his future in doubt. Long term, the Mets hope second-ranked prospect Peter Alonso can overcome his defensive shortcomings fully enough to hold down first, but they have been hesitant to call the 23-year-old Alonso up. They may not do so until next year.
In any event, the Mets crave versatility from Bruce, who hit just three home runs in 236 plate appearances prior to going on the DL. Callaway admitted Tuesday that Bruce frequently played hurt, battling through hip, foot and back issues in the first season of a three-year, $39-million contract.
Two months on the disabled list, the Mets hope, will be enough for Bruce to give the team at least a glimpse of his true abilities before season's end.
"He's done a good job of getting treatment, and knows that he's going to have to stay on top of all that when he comes back," Callaway said. "It's not going to be an easy task, but he knows that's what he's going to have to do to stay healthy, and stay out there and play."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.