Jay Bruce wants this Mets audition to mean something

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BOSTON — Even as the ball explodes off his bat with more frequency, Jay Bruce just wants this season to end.

The Mets aren’t playing for the postseason, and Bruce — despite five homers and 14 RBIs in 18 games since returning from the disabled list, entering Saturday — probably isn’t going to dramatically alter the back of his baseball card for 2018 at this point.

When his home run total was mentioned before the Mets faced the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the veteran outfielder/first baseman was blunt.

“Eight, already,” he said. “On September 15.”

But eight was just three when Bruce returned from the DL on Aug. 24, after missing two months with a strained muscle in his right hip. Along the way, Bruce is trying to learn the nuances of a relatively unfamiliar position: first base.

If anything, Bruce hopes the past few weeks have dispelled the notion the Mets goofed when they gave him a three-year contract worth $39 million last winter.

“For me, the work and the commitment just begins when I sign that contract,” Bruce said. “I signed it to fulfill that contract and overachieve. I hope to overperform. This year has not been the case, and it’s frustrating and probably the least favorite season I have ever played.”

The Mets are just happy to have Bruce — along with players such as Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil and Todd Frazier — thriving after a largely disappointing offensive season.

It’s evident to team officials that Bruce’s hip was the issue and not a decline in skills.

“His ability to get through the ball and hit it into the seats is back,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “The issues that he was having, even if he didn’t quite know it at the time, were affecting him for sure.”

Bruce understands he could be building his trade value with his recent solid play, but hopes the Mets want to stick with him — even with the organization’s top offensive prospect, Peter Alonso, possibly ready to challenge for the first-base job in spring training. Dominic Smith and Wilmer Flores also remain in the mix at the position.

The Mets have Conforto and Brandon Nimmo for the corner outfield spots, though both can play center field if needed. Juan Lagares will likely be part of that equation, returning from toe surgery and scheduled to earn $9 million next season. Yoenis Cespedes is expected to miss the first two to three months of the season recovering from surgery on both heels, but could be a possibility for the second half of the season.

“A lot of different things can happen, I know how this stuff works,” Bruce said. “We don’t know who the new GM is going to be, we don’t know who is going to be making the decisions, we don’t know what route they are going to want to go.”

But the fact the Mets kept their starting rotation intact at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline tells Bruce the plan is to shoot for the playoffs in 2019.

And Bruce would fully expect to remain for a team trying to win.

“When I am healthy I am one of the best options in this clubhouse every single day,” Bruce said. “I feel like if the Mets are going to get to where we expect to get to, then I feel like I need to be part of that. Those decisions are not up to me. I will be ready to play, whether it’s right field, first base, for this team, another team.

“I would like to think our team has the talent to compete — we have to stay healthy — and give it another shot for sure.”

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