ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Even before Jay Bruce played his first game for Cleveland, manager Terry Francona said the slugger boosted the banged-up Indians.
“It gives you a little bounce in your step,” Francona said Thursday before the Indians opened a four-game series against Tampa Bay. “There’s no guarantees. There’s not supposed to be, but he is a really good run producer, and to add him to your lineup is really going to help.”
Bruce wasn’t at Tropicana Field in time to start vs. the Rays. The AL Central leaders acquired the 30-year-old Bruce from the New York Mets on Wednesday night for minor league pitcher Ryder Ryan.
Bruce hit 29 home runs, tied for fourth-most in the NL, and drove in 75 runs for the Mets, playing the outfield and occasionally at first base. Francona said he wants to talk with the left-handed power hitter before making any long-term decisions, but he said Bruce will probably bat fifth on Friday night.
“If it comes to the point where we have too many outfielders, good for us because right now, we’re playing two short,” Francona said. “So to get a bat like this … I mean, something else could happen. So we’ve got a stretch of 22 games in a row, so to have that bat should help us.”
Edwin Encarnacion is the Indians’ home run leader with 22. The Indians have 131 home runs and rank 10th in the league, the same position they finished last year before winning the pennant. The 2016 Indians were second in the league in runs, however, compared to seventh this year.
Francona said he hopes owner Paul Dolan gets the proper credit for acquiring Bruce, whose contract expires at the end of this season.
“(Dolan) kind of took a big bite right there, and don’t think we don’t appreciate it because it’s going to give us a better chance to win,” Francona said.