BY TOM WITHERS
CLEVELAND (AP) — Jay Bruce has been on Cleveland’s radar for some time.
On Wednesday, the Indians finally landed the veteran outfielder.
Hours after putting All-Star Michael Brantley on the disabled list with an ankle injury, the Indians acquired Bruce from the New York Mets for minor league pitcher Ryder Ryan. The Indians were quiet at last month’s trading deadline, but they were able to get Bruce after he cleared waivers unclaimed.
After losing Game 7 of the World Series last year to the Chicago Cubs, the Indians want to end their own title drought stretching to 1948 and believe Bruce can help.
“He’s been a consistent power threat and a guy that’s been able to hit in the middle of the order and be a really productive hitter over the course of his career,” Indians president Chris Antonetti said on a conference call.
“And he’s in the midst of having one of the best years of his career in terms of his power output and his slugging, and he’s a guy that we think will add to our group on the field and complement our team in the clubhouse, because Jay’s also not only known as a really productive player, but a very good teammate and a first-class professional.
“We think he should fit in well with us and help us out for the stretch run.”
With both Brantley and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall out with injuries, the defending AL champions were in the market for a proven outfielder with some pop. Bruce fits the bill perfectly and can also play some first base.
“Obviously, if both Michael and Lonnie are healthy and unrestricted at this point, we wouldn’t have the opportunity for a player like Jay,” Antonetti said. “But, with Lonnie still at least a little ways off from being able to get out on a rehab assignment and get back to the active roster, and Michael sustaining the injury the other day, now we felt that bringing in Jay will help us while those guys are out.”
Bruce, who is hitting .256 with 29 homers and 75 RBIs for the Mets, will give Indians protection while Brantley recovers. It’s not known how long Brantley, who is having a strong season after playing in just 11 games and missing the 2016 postseason, might be out with an injury sustained on Tuesday night.
The Mets are 11 games under .500 for the first time in three years and were eager to unload Bruce, who has $13 million salary this year and can become a free agent after the World Series. Cleveland agreed to pay the $3.7 million remaining of Bruce’s salary, and Antonetti credited owner Paul Dolan for stepping up.
“Ownership has been incredibly supportive in trying to put the best team possible on the field and give us a chance to earn a postseason berth and advance to the World Series,” he said. “This is just the most recent example of what’s been a consistent track record for them in trying to do that, and providing us the necessary resources to try to make that happen.”
Bruce is back in a pennant race after a rough season for New York, which is 16½ games behind Washington in the NL East. The Mets acquired Bruce from Cincinnati at last year’s trade deadline.
Now, the 30-year-old is right back playing in meaningful games with the AL Central leaders. He will report to the Indians this weekend in Tampa, where the club will open an 11-game, four-city trip.
A three-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, Bruce has played 91 games in right field and 11 games at first base this season.
“We’ve had interest in Jay for years,” Antonetti said. “We’ve tried to acquire him at a number of different junctures in the past. I think what accelerated things for us was Michael sustaining his injury. Once that happened, we re-engaged the Mets and were able to work things out.”
Ryan will be assigned to Columbia of the Class A South Atlantic League. He was 3-4 with six saves and a 4.79 ERA in 33 games for Class A Lake County of the Midwest League.
AP Sports Writer Ron Blum in New York contributed to this report.
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