In a recent sit-down with MLB.com at Citi Field, Mets outfielder Jay Bruce answered 20 questions on subjects ranging from new Mets manager Mickey Callaway to the club's fast start.
MLB.com: How good is it to be back in New York?
Jay Bruce: It's great to be back. No. 1, I love the city. I had a great time on the team when I was here. The only negative about the whole thing [last year] was not winning. And I think we have the ability to win this year, so I'm excited about that.
MLB.com: How surprised are you by the team's fast start?
Bruce: I'm not surprised. You never expect to win nine in a row. But I feel we have a very good, talented, deep team. So winning doesn't surprise me by any means.
MLB.com: What's the difference between the Mets now and your first tenure in New York?
Bruce: I think we added some pieces in Adrian Gonzalez, Todd Frazier. I think we are healthy.
MLB.com: When you first came to New York, you acknowledged it took time to adjust.
Bruce: I never admitted anything. [The media] made a big deal about me adjusting to the city, but that was all just other people creating a narrative that I completely disagreed with the whole time. I was bad at baseball for a month. It was a situation where I just had to continue to play. That's how the game goes.
MLB.com: What adjustments did you make to play well on the field?
Bruce: I kept working. Last year definitely was along the lines of what I've been doing over my career. People go through rough patches. It was one of those situations where I had to keep playing and keep working and preparing -- just making myself available to have success, which is continue to work and be ready.
MLB.com: Who do you credit for your success last year?
Bruce: Not to sound selfish, but I credit myself for it mostly. But when I got over here, I think Kevin Long and Pat Roessler were a big part of me figuring out what I needed to do to become a better player overall, even when I came here from Cincinnati.
MLB.com: I think you are a better player now. I say that because you are hitting to the opposite field. I think you are striking out less often.
Bruce: That had a lot to do with trying to evolve as a player. When I got here -- when Kevin Long was here and [Roessler], our hitting coach now -- they helped me with some little things that I believe have carried over and allowed me to have more success.
MLB.com: What are the little things you are talking about?
Bruce: Just different drills and thought processes -- drills that let me use the whole field, a little cleaner, more efficient swing. Using my legs better, stuff like that.
Video: Bruce happy for NYC return, playing for Callaway
MLB.com: What made you decide to go back to the Mets?
Bruce: Getting to know Mickey Callaway in Cleveland helped a lot. I knew the team that we had. We had a good team here. Because of some injuries last year, we were not able to do what we needed to do. It was a situation where I knew we had the pieces. I wanted to finish what we started.
MLB.com: What do you like about Mickey Callaway as a manager?
Bruce: He has been an easy guy to play for so far. He is a guy who is prepared. He doesn't want to micromanage. He wants you to be yourself, the best player you can be. He wants to put you in a position to be successful. It's been a lot of fun so far.
MLB.com: Callaway has this team off to a great start. What has he done to make this team believe they can win?
Bruce: He just lets us be ourselves. I think that is a huge deal. He said, "Listen you guys, we have a really solid team here. We have a great team full of very talented individuals. I'm going to do what I can to put you in the position to have success." I think he has done a great job of that.
MLB.com: Do the Mets think they can win the NL East title?
Bruce: We thought since we stepped into the clubhouse in Spring Training that we had the ability to win the division.
MLB.com: When I think of Jay Bruce, I think of Beaumont, Texas. You raised over $400,000 after Hurricane Harvey hit that town. Could you tell me what that town means to you?
Video: MLB Central talks to Jay Bruce about Texas and more
Bruce: Beaumont means everything to me. It's a huge part of what has made me who I am as a human being and as a baseball player. Right now, I have six of my friends from Beaumont, my best friends from high school. I met my wife there. My family still lives there. I started raising my family there. It's a place with a great sense of community. It has been so supportive of me, on and off the field. I just hope I can give back much more than I already have.
MLB.com: You were a free agent this past offseason. Were there any thoughts in your mind about playing in Texas?
Bruce: Absolutely. There was a lot of interest in playing in Houston. There was some talks with the Astros. There was a bit of traction, but it just never materialized.
MLB.com: What would it have meant to play in Texas?
Bruce: It would have meant a lot. But I understand it's a business. The business side of the game kind of dictates where you go. It would have been nice, but New York is great. I'm comfortable here. My family loves it. It's a cool switch up from my hometown. It's the greatest city in the world.
MLB.com: I'm going to mention one thing. Tell me what comes to mind. Let's start with Cleveland.
Video: NYY@CLE Gm2: Bruce hits game-tying solo homer in 8th
Bruce: One of the best times I ever had playing baseball.
Bruce: My first home as a Major League Baseball player. It's where I grew up. It will always hold a special place in my heart. I still keep in touch with some of the guys I played with. Probably my best memories as a player have come from there.
MLB.com: Dusty Baker.
Bruce: My mentor. He is someone who took a keen interest in me. He really raised me as a player. He cares about me as a human being. I still talk to him often.
MLB.com: May I ask you why?
Bruce: He is such a great man, on and off the field. He is someone I really respect. He is such a jack-of-all-trades. He is so multifaceted as a human being. It's awesome.
MLB.com: Is he a Hall of Famer?
Bruce: I believe so, yes.
Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. He covered the Nationals/Expos from 2002-2016. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.