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Bruce takes rare day off, still leads MLB in innings played

Jay Bruce is no Cal Ripken, but he’s as close to an iron man as Major League Baseball has this season. He leads all of baseball in innings played. Even though he didn’t start Saturday’s game against the Brewers at Great American Ball Park, his lead was safe.

It was only the second game Bruce hasn’t started out of 130. He has played in 1,156 1/3 innings out of a possible 1,169 1/3.

Chris Heisey started in right field Saturday for the first time this season. He made 10 starts there last season.

Bruce said manager Dusty Baker pulled him into his office after Friday’s game to tell him he wouldn’t start Saturday. He protested just a little bit.

Of course, even an off day isn’t really an off day for big league players. Bruce still had to come to the park and get ready to play in case he was needed. Baker did tell him to come in late, so that was one benefit.

“It’s not a specific goal, but I come to the field to play every day,” Bruce said. “I expect to do that. Health is obviously a big key, and I’ve been able to stay healthy. I’d like to be out there every day, but I appreciate Dusty just letting me know, ‘Get a day off here. There aren’t many opportunities the rest of the year.’ I look forward to enjoying the day and moving on from here and finishing strong.”

Bruce started 149 games last season, 151 games in 2011 and 133 in 2010. He has slumped in August this season, hitting .192. His average has fallen from .278 on July 31 to .266. He has gotten at least one hit in 14 of the 20 games, but he hasn’t had one multi-hit game in August.

“In years past, Dusty would give me a day off to kind of hang and take a mental break,” Bruce said. “I think this is strictly a physical break for me. I’ll use it, and I’ll be ready to play. You never know.”

Joey Votto has started all but one game this season and ranks third in baseball in innings played (1,139 1/3). There are few remaining opportunities for Votto or Bruce or any of the regular Reds to take days off because every game is so important.

Starting Monday, the Reds play seven of their next 10 games against the Cardinals, the team they’re chasing in the wild-card race.

“It is hard (not playing),” Bruce said. “(Baker’s) pretty adamant about giving guys some rest when he thinks they need it. I respect that.”

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