Yankees see ‘a lot left’ in Jay Bruce after tough Opening Day

For a brief moment Thursday, it looked as if Jay Bruce might play hero in his first game in a Yankees uniform.

Alas, his fly ball in the seventh inning only traveled 363 feet, landing in the glove of Blue Jays right fielder Teoscar Hernandez for an out instead of over the wall for a Yankees lead.

It was an otherwise uneventful Opening Day for Bruce, who went 0-for-3 with a walk out of the No. 8 spot and was not tested defensively at first base in the 3-2, 10-inning loss.

“I think we’re going to see still a very good player,” manager Aaron Boone said Thursday. “A guy that we feel like has a lot left. A guy that’s obviously had a very good career to this point and is not an old guy.

“He’s older and he’s veteran, but he’s only 33 years old and I think physically, is in probably a better place than he’s been the past couple years. We hope as a result to that, we’re going to get a highly productive player.”

Jay Bruce
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Bruce, who won a roster spot after Luke Voit opted to undergo surgery for a partially torn meniscus, is expected to be the regular starter at first base until Voit returns. The former Met is a natural outfielder who hadn’t made more than 10 starts at first base in a season until 2018. He still had just 50 career starts at the position entering this season.

DJ LeMahieu can fill in at first base — as he did Thursday in the 10th inning, moving over from second — and Mike Tauchman also has been taking ground balls at first. But Bruce said late in camp he believes he could keep getting better at the position.

“I’m confident I can play a very adequate first base, and with more practice, I think I can be good,” Bruce said.

Boone insisted he would play the matchups while Aroldis Chapman served his two-game suspension to begin the year, and the manager lived up to his word on Opening Day. Instead of holding Chad Green back for a potential save scenario, he called on the high-leverage reliever as the first pitcher out of the bullpen Thursday.

Green replaced Gerrit Cole with one out in the sixth inning and threw 1 ²/₃ scoreless frames in what was then a 2-2 game.

Jonathan Loaisiga threw an eight-pitch eighth inning and Darren O’Day handled the ninth before Nick Nelson was charged with the loss in the 10th after giving up a leadoff RBI double.

The Yankees have one more game to get through without a designated closer before Chapman is eligible to return for Sunday’s series finale.

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