A Giant dream
March 14, 2003
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Dressed in a San Francisco Giants uniform, Greg Bruso stepped on the field at Surprise Stadium and soaked it all in.
He walked around the diamond and signed autographs for fans. If things went the way he hoped, the South Lake Tahoe resident would soon be on the mound, pitching with the defending National League champs playing defense behind him.
If the game against the Royals went into the 10th inning, Bruso was going to get the ball. Reliever Felix Rodriguez quashed that dream by striking out the side in the ninth. The Giants 8-7 win on Sunday was Bruso’s personal loss.
It was time to go back to reality, which is still a pretty nice dream.
The life Bruso has known for nearly four weeks now is daylong workouts at Indian School Park along with about 125 prospects in the Giants minor league system.
“There’s more pitchers than there are jobs,” he said after going through five hours of drills on Thursday. Bruso, slated to pitch in a single-A league this year, concluded his workout by pitching live batting practice to the triple-A club.
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“The big thing is hustling,” he said. “If the coaches see you’re doing that, you’re going to stand out. The other part is pitching well.”
So far, Bruso has done both.
A 16th-round pick out of UC Davis last June, Bruso met his first challenge in a rookie league, leading the Salem, Ore., club in earned run average. That earned him an invite to an instructional league in the fall, where he was named the team’s co-most valuable player.
That success led to being one of 22 players to go to a four-day conditioning camp at Pacific Bell Park in December, then an invitation to mini-camp on Feb. 14, giving him a three-week head start on most of the pitchers and catchers.
He’s not looked upon as a 16th-round pick anymore.
Cubs pitcher Shawn Estes, who was a first-round pick out of Douglas High School in 1991, knows what Bruso is going through.
“He’s gonna have to deal with a lot of guys just as good as him,” Estes said. “The team already has some expectations built up because they’ve seen him in instruction league.”
Bruso said he’s happy if the team has expectations and that comes as no surprise to one of his former coaches.
“He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached,” said Billy Ramsey, who coached Bruso in Little League and high school. “He worked every day to improve himself. While others were out riding or on the lake, he was working on getting better.”
Bruso’s changeup and fastball, his top pitches, are working well for him. He is trying to improve his slider and learn to effectively pitch the two-seam fastball, which moves in on right-hand hitters. While some of the minor leaguers in camp will be released and some will remain for extended spring training, Bruso is certain to be assigned to Hagerstown, Md., or San Jose, the higher level single-A team. He has been working out this week with the San Jose squad.
“He just needs to do what he knows he can do and that’s get guys out and pitch and try to make progress every day,” Estes said. “He should try to work on something every day and try to challenge himself every day to get better. That’s something I didn’t realize until later in my career and I wish I would have known that when I was younger. I might not have toiled around the minor leagues as long as I did.”
At his first spring training camp, Bruso has a goal of finishing the season at San Jose. If he gets to make that bus ride when the team breaks camp at the end of the month, all the better. In the meantime, he can think back to his one-game call up with the Giants this spring and keep working toward the future.