GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jay Bruce has put up some impressive numbers without an abundance of national publicity. He's the only National League player to hit at least 25 home runs every year since 2010, and he's collected more homers and doubles (201) over the past three seasons than any big league hitter not named Miguel Cabrera.
The Reds expect Bruce to continue to be an offensive force this season as he turns 27. But he'll be taking his hacks from a slightly different vantage point.
Former Reds manager Dusty Baker had reservations about batting Joey Votto and Bruce back-to-back, because they're both left-handed and Baker thought the Reds would be at a disadvantage late in games when opposing managers started running out lefty relief specialists.
New Reds manager Bryan Price is going to take a different slant. The plan calls for Brandon Phillips to move up from fourth to second in the order. Bruce will bat cleanup behind Votto versus righty starters, while Ryan Ludwick will slide in at No. 4 against lefties.
"My theory is, if we're thinking a lot about innings 7-8, maybe we're not focusing enough on 1-6," Price said. "If we deliver the knockout blow early, we don't have to worry too much about the matchup lefty [reliever] being in the ballgame. I'd like to be more aggressive in the front end of the game and see if we can get the starter out of there and get into the bullpen. That sets a great tone for the series."
Bruce's platoon splits aren't all that pronounced by standards of a lefty power hitter. He has a career .842 OPS against left-handed pitchers compared to .744 versus righties. Since the start of the 2010 season, he leads all big league hitters with 44 homers against lefties -- four more than Albert Pujols's total of 40.
Bruce's output includes a two-home run game against NL Cy Young winner and $215 million man Clayton Kershaw in a nationally televised Reds win over the Dodgers at Great American Ball Park in September. As ESPN.com's Jayson Stark has pointed out, that was two more homers than the other 165 lefty hitters who faced Kershaw hit off him during the 2013 season.