Opponents were .271/.378/.508 against Bruney in the second half of last season, leading to an ERA of 9.60. He was demoted to Triple-A, came back, then was left off the playoff roster.
Bruney’s power arm appealed to the Yankees but his attitude did not. He was out of condition and resistant to advice. Coaches told him to take a little off his fastball to try and improve his control and he kept throwing as hard as he could.
But the Yankees kept him, spending $725,000 on a one-year deal.
Bruney, who turned 26 last week, could prove to a bargain if the first two weeks of spring training are any indication. He reported to camp early and is at least 20 pounds lighter than he was last season.
More importantly, his attitude seems to have changed. Once sort of sullen, Bruney has opened himself up to teammates. I spoke him with today for a feature story I was working on and he was downright engaging. Coaches have said he’s the same way with them.
“Bruney is trying to become Asian,” said Kei Igawa, who has the locker next to Bruney. “He’s going to visit Japan. He’s a funny guy.”
Two weeks does not a career change make. How Bruney looks against hitters will determine whether he makes the team. But the bullpen is the land of opportunity for the Yankees. Outside of Mariano Rivera, Kyle Farnsworth and LaTroy Hawkins, every job is open.