Phillies Brown ready to seize ‘right' opportunity


Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Posted: 6:17 p.m.

By Jim Salisbury

CLEARWATER, Fla.Having added about 10 pounds of muscle and made a critical adjustment to his swing during offseason workouts, Domonic Brown is set for his role in the biggest drama of Phillies spring training.

Im ready to win this job, he said after taking batting practice under the sun at Bright House Field on Tuesday.

Physically and mentally, Im ready to go. Id run through a wall right now.

Dont do that, Dom. This team had enough injuries last year.

Brown is one of a handful of candidates to replace the departed Jayson Werth in right field. Others who will get a look include Ben Francisco, John Mayberry Jr., Ross Gload and non-roster player Delwyn Young.

Brown and Francisco are clearly the frontrunners. You can expect to see them make a lot of bus rides and get a lot of at-bats during Grapefruit League play. On Tuesday, manager Charlie Manuel said Brown could get 100 at-bats in camp, about 30 more than most regulars get.

Francisco and Brown bring different qualities to their respective candidacies.

Francisco, 29, has 360 big-league games under his belt and was as semi-regular, exceeding 400 at-bats, in 2008 and 2009 with Cleveland and the Phillies. He bats right-handed and that could help his cause in a lineup that is heavy with left-handed hitters.

Brown, 23, is a hotshot prospect who has the toolsspeed and a left-handed power stroketo become an All-Star. He projects as the Phils rightfielder (or leftfielder when Raul Ibanezs contract is up after this season) of the future.

When will the future begin? That is the big question.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has indicated that it wouldnt be a bad thing for Brown to get a little more experience in Triple A this season. Manuel believes he can handle the job of easing Brown into the big leagues, possibly in a platoon with Francisco.

Whether Brown stays in Philadelphia or goes to the minors will be decided in this camp. In preparation for such a pivotal audition, Brown spent most of the winter in Clearwater working on his game.

Im working to be in the big leagues, he said. But if I go to Triple A, I go to triple A. Its no big deal to me. Im only 23. Well see what happens.

Actually, making the Phils opening day roster is a big deal to Brown. If it wasnt he wouldnt have reported to Clearwater weeks ago to start working on an adjustment in his swing with hitting coach Greg Gross. During his prep time, Brown also packed up some muscle, increasing his weight to 218, spread over a lanky 6-5 frame.

Brown arrived in the majors amid much hype when Shane Victorino strained an oblique muscle in July. He spent two months in the big leagues but hit just .210 while getting only sporadic at-bats. The wisdom of keeping Brown in the majors after Victorino returned was hotly debated, but the Phils liked the idea of having his bat on the bench, and club officials thought he would benefit by getting a taste of a pennant race.

The Phils hoped Brown would recoup some development time by playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, but he stayed just a few weeks and returned home after getting only two hits in 29 at-bats.

I played poorly then I got sick, Brown. It was best to get home and work on the things I needed to.

Looking back, Brown values his experience in the Dominican Republic. A player can learn a lot about himself from failure and Brown said he did that. He left the Dominican and headed to Clearwater to revamp his swing under Gross watchful eye.

Brown has always held his hands somewhat high at the plate, but they drifted higher than usual and above his helmet last year. That made him susceptible to inside pitches. He looked at late-season video of his swing and compared it with the swing that helped him hit .327 with 20 homers and 68 RBIs in 93 games in the minors last season and saw a noticeable difference.

Now, his hands are lower. His swing is back to where it used to be.

My hands were never that high before, Brown said. I dont know how they got that high. Thats the mental part of the game. Its a long season and things just happened. They didnt want to mess with me during the season and I didnt want that either. So we waited. Thats one of the reasons I came back from winter ball early because I knew things werent right and it was going to take time to get back where I needed to be.

Manuel watched Brown take batting practice the last couple of days and likes what he sees.

I think it puts him in a better hitting position, Manuel said. Its really helped shorten his approach. He took a real long cut at the ball. This shortens his cut. Hes getting down and through the ball instead of looping underneath it.

Will the adjustment help Brown win at least a share of the right-field job?

That answer will unfold over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, hes ready for his starring role in camps biggest drama.

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