During his short stay in Trenton, New York Yankees reliever Brian Bruney has fit in quite nicely.
He’s been very giving of his time with members of the media, and has also volunteered his services in the radio booth, teaming up with a very surprised Steve Rudenstein to do a couple innings of play-by-play on the air.
I got to the ballpark early today, and Bruney was gracious enough to interrupt his very successful practice of scratching off a pile of instant lottery tickets to chat for about five minutes.
Here’s how it went…
Mike Ashmore: I guess the most obvious question would be to ask how your foot feels…
Brian Bruney: “It feels good. It’s kind of a nagging injury, and it’s a tough injury to kind of mask, I guess. You feel it when you walk, you feel it with everything. It’s amazing how much you do with your feet. But it feels good. I’ve still got some strengthening to do with it, but I’m not far off.”
Ashmore: Can you talk a little bit about what went into the decision not to have surgery?
Bruney: “You always hope for the best, but you realize that any time you have an injury, it’s probably not going to feel the same. My thought the whole time is that if I can get back, and I can help the team win one game, then I made the right decision. If I go and I help them win one game, and then I get hurt again, I’ll still feel like I made the right decision. Everybody heals differently. I came back from a pretty serious elbow injury in ’06 a lot quicker than anybody expected. I was diagnosed with a grade 2 tear in my elbow ligament, the Tommy John ligament, and I was back pitching in three months. You never know how you’re going to heal, I guess. If there’s a chance, even if it’s a slight chance, I’ll take it.”
Ashmore: So how frustrating has it been for you to not have been able to help the Yankees for the past two and a half months or so?
Bruney: “Well, the team has made it pretty easy for me to not get frustrated, because the bullpen has done an unbelievable job. I’m kind of wondering if they even need me now. They’ve been doing good, but it’s tough. The wins, it’s OK to watch. But it’s tough when you watch the losses. I don’t like watching and seeing the team not do well. That’s the hardest part. I don’t get to watch many games, because they have the YES Network, and I’m never anywhere where that’s at. I’ve seen a few though, I catch them when they’re on ESPN and stuff like that. But it’s been OK. I’ve kind of had it broken up where I’ve been able to go up and spend some time with the team. A lot of guys still text me — when are you coming back, we miss you — so it’s been good.”
Ashmore: With the Yankees game on TV now, what are the emotions that are going through your mind watching it knowing that you should be in the bullpen instead?
Bruney: “My emotions now are just kind of confused. They haven’t really told me what’s going on, or when and if I’m going up or anything like that. I’m just kind of on a whim right now, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen. There’s some confusion there, but I just know what I’m doing through Monday, then there’s the All-Star break, so I’m sure they’ll tell me after I pitch Monday. But it depends a lot on how I do.”
Ashmore: So what exactly is the plan for you while you’re here?
Bruney: “I’ve got two innings tonight (or) 40 pitches, whatever comes first, and then one on Monday. And then we’ll go from there. I may go with the team. I’ve thrown four innings so far, three outings, so I’ll have five outings after this. I still feel like I’m a little bit off of where I want to be, but hopefully these next two outings, I can dial it in.”
Ashmore: Is it possible to kind of enjoy something like this at all? Obviously you don’t want to be hurt, and obviously you want to be up in the big leagues right now, but it seems like you’ve got a pretty good attitude about being here…
Bruney: “I guess it’s a lot better to be in the minors on a rehab assignment than it is just being in the minors. But they let you do some stuff, I got to be on the radio yesterday. It’s good, but at the same time it’s frustrating, because you never want to be hurt. The team is paying you a lot of money to do a job, and when you’re not able to do it, you feel frustrated and feel like you let a lot of people down. I feel like my team is counting on me to do certain things and I haven’t been able to do those for a few months. I’m frustrated in myself and with the whole injury and things like that. But I’m eager to get going, and hopefully I’ll be able to take positives from everything. The one thing I can take from this is my arm got a rest for two and a half months. Last year at the end of the year, I felt like I kind of ran out of a little gas, so hopefully this year I’ll have a full tank for the whole year.”
Ashmore: Is it interesting to you to get to play with some of these guys now that will probably be up with you in either September or next season?
Bruney: “Well, I played with a few of these guys in spring training, and I played with Chase last year in New York. So I know a few of these guys. It’s good, you hear a lot about the Melancon’s, Austin Jackson and a lot of the starters…the starting pitchers we’ve heard a lot about. It’s good to actually put some faces on some names and see what these guys can do. So far, they’ve proved that they’re worth the hype. There’s a lot of talent here.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com