Productive Bruce acclimates quickly for Tribe

Productive Bruce acclimates quickly for Tribe

ST. PETERSBURG -- A New York Mets equipment bag still sits atop Jay Bruce's locker. The Indians' prized trade acquisition is very new to the team, with just two starts now under his belt. But the slugger has a familiarity with his new teammates that makes it feel like he's been with them since Spring Training.

In a way he has, although not this year's spring session. Bruce played the first nine years of his career with the Cincinnati Reds, who share the Goodyear Ballpark complex in Arizona with the Indians each spring.

"If I didn't know every one of them, it felt a lot like I did," Bruce said after his first game with the Indians on Thursday.

That has made his transition to a new clubhouse much easier. Of course, his production so far at the plate can't hurt in winning a room over.

In Saturday's 3-0 win over the Rays, Bruce went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. The double that dropped in left field gave Cleveland a 1-0 first-inning lead, which was all Mike Clevinger and the bullpen needed the rest of the way.

Bruce's RBI double

On Friday, Bruce followed Edwin Encarnacion's solo shot with a single down the right-field line. The 1-0 lead Encarnacion established soon ballooned to a five-run inning, with Bruce the second to cross the plate. He singled later in that victory as well.

"He's got a presence about him in the batter's box, and he watches [pitchers]," manager Terry Francona said. "You can see him making adjustments. His production -- not just for the last two days, but for the season -- is going to be very welcome."

Francona on Bruce's role in win

Bruce has slid right into the fifth spot in the Cleveland lineup and has generated some offense for a unit that hasn't been firing on all cylinders recently. But Francisco Lindor was quick to remind that Bruce isn't limited to making positive contributions to the team with his bat.

"The stuff he's doing on the field is great, but he's a better teammate," Lindor said. "He's quiet, but he's supportive and he wants to win. And that's what you want of a teammate. And ultimately at the end of the day, that's what matters. We want him to perform, but if he's a good teammate -- we know that we are going to hopefully the playoffs, going to go through two months together, and if we don't get along, it would be a rough time.

"We all get along and he fits in. He looks like he's been in here for a long time and he's going to help us."

Connor Mount is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg who covered the Indians on Saturday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.