Former Phillies slugger Jay Bruce lucks into starting 1B job

New York Yankees outfielder Jay Bruce (30) (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Yankees outfielder Jay Bruce (30) (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports) /

Not all veterans usually find their way onto a Major League roster when they enter spring training on a minor-league contract. Consider right-handed pitchers Ivan Nova and Hector Rondon, as well as catcher Jeff Mathis, all non-roster invitee veterans who were recently released by the Philadelphia Phillies after being told they would not make the Opening Day roster.

Former Phillies slugger Jay Bruce has been a rare exception, finding his way not only onto the Opening Day roster for the New York Yankees, but also into a starter role at first base.

Jay Bruce has made the Yankees roster after an 83-game Phillies stint (2019-20).

On Saturday, the Yankees selected Bruce’s contract from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and named him their starting first baseman. He is filling in for the injured Luke Voit, who is expected to be out until at least May due to his partially torn knee meniscus.

Bruce making the Yankees roster is a surprise in it itself, but as an Opening Day starter and at first base is even more of a shock. Had Voit not been injured, Bruce may have been a free-agent by now, assuming he would have exercised an opt-out clause in his contract.

The 13-year veteran played 13 innings at first base for the Phillies in 2020. He did not commit a single error across 14 chances, all the while recording 13 putouts and one assist.

The Yankees have Bruce signed on a cheap $1.35 million deal. He has shown signs of power this spring, slugging three singles, one double, and two home runs spanning 31 at-bats. Phillies pitching has notably held Bruce hitless across nine at-bats down in Florida, striking him out twice.

Had the designated hitter returned to the National League this coming season, the Phillies may have considered re-signing the soon-to-be 34-year-old. Instead, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski opted to sign Brad Miller for bench depth. Also, outfielder Matt Joyce has made the team and will provide valuable outfield depth.

It will be interesting to see if Bruce will have success early on with his sixth big-league team, and  when Voit returns from injury, whether he remain in the majors.

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