PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Standing on one of the back fields of the Mets' Port St. Lucie training complex, Jay Bruce stood with his foot on the first base bag and tried to pick an errant throw that came from the left side of the infield. It bounced wide off of his glove.
Third baseman David Wright told him he had better get used to those. Wright, who only started playing catch a week ago, joked that he may throwing a few of those himself over in the direction of first base.
But Bruce isn't planning on getting used to anything at first base. He plans to let Lucas Duda, who is currently dealing with back and hip problems, take the position while plays in right field primarily. Bruce said if he plays at first base, it will only be in an emergency.
"I think people mistake first base as this position that doesn't matter, but it makes a huge difference," Bruce said. "I don't plan on having to do it, just because I'm hoping that Lucas is healthy and gets through whatever is going on, but I am going to work at it."
Bruce has previously played three times at first base at the big league level and played some in his early high school days. His three starts at first came in 2014 during an emergency situation with Cincinnati. He said he did ok, but it wasn't a position he was comfortable with then and he still isn't now.
Paying first base in a Grapefruit League game may get him better acclimated to the speed of the game but he said he needs more work. Collins hasn't told him whether or not he will play the position in a spring training game yet.
"I don't know how comfortable I'll be really, playing here in the near future," Bruce said. "I think the only way to get comfortable there would be to play. But like I said, I'd like to get some work in in a more controlled environment and get more comfortable there."
Bruce asked coaches to hit grounders and make throws from all over the infield. He wasn't throwing to anyone, but David Wright and T.J. Rivera were both on the field with him. Terry Collins and bench coach Dick Scott oversaw the work.
Bruce wasn't terrible, but it was obvious that it wasn't his natural position. He failed to pick some low throws and closed his glove on a few too early. He said he'd gone over to first base a few times last season and messed around "sandlot-style," but that had been the extent of his work.
"They haven't been too pressing about it," Bruce said. "It's more like, 'Hey, go get comfortable over there, see how it feels, take a few ground balls from there and we'll see what happens.'"
Bruce he doesn't want to be a liability to the team, that much he's made clear. And he's also made it clear that he is very uncomfortable at the position. But the decision may not be his.
"I want to give myself a chance and give my team a chance," he said. "I'm not going to go over there and butcher it. I can't. That's just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field. It wouldn't be fair to the team. I'm going to work at it, and we'll see what happens."
Abbey Mastracco may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @abbeymastracco. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
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