Please give a warm welcome to YOUR OPENING DAY CENTERFIELDER, Corey Patterson:

Reds outfield prospect Jay Bruce got the news Thursday he was hoping he wouldn’t get this spring.

The top-ranked prospect in all of baseball was told he was one of five roster cuts and that he would start the regular season at Triple-A Louisville. Manager Dusty Baker and general manager Wayne Krivsky informed Bruce he would be sent down.

“I knew what they’d tell me when I went in there,” Bruce said at the Reds complex in Sarasota. “You don’t want to get sent down. It’s disappointing. But I will feed off of it, go to Louisville and play well.”

Bruce, 20, who was named the No. 1 prospect in 2008 by Baseball America, was seeking to become the Reds’ starting center fielder in a battle that started with Ryan Freel and Norris Hopper.

The race tightened when veteran center fielder Corey Patterson was signed on the urging of Baker. Like Bruce, Patterson is a left-handed hitter.

“When they signed Patterson, I knew the writing was on the wall,” Bruce said. “They have an idea of what they wanted to do. I’ll keep doing my thing and try to force the issue this season and see them soon.”

Sheesh. I can understand sending Bruce to AAA to start the season; I didn’t want it to happen, but I understand and can’t even argue too much with it. The frustrating thing is knowing that we’re going to have to watch Corey Patterson’s sub-300 on-base percentage in the leadoff spot in the lineup. It’s just disgusting. And if this demotion lasts more than a couple of months, we’ll know Dusty Baker’s reputation for favoring veterans may be more than just idle talk.

In other news, Marcus McBeth, Drew Anderson (I don’t know which one), Josh Roenicke, and Tom Shearn were sent to the minors, as well. I’m particularly disappointed about McBeth; I had hoped he would earn a spot in the bullpen coming out of the spring.