Phils to give Brown his shot at winning outfield spot
With Victorino, Pence traded, 25-year-old will get regular playing time
WASHINGTON -- The Phillies are anxious to see what Domonic Brown can do. The one-time No. 1 prospect is looking forward to his first extended audition in the big leagues. The only trouble was that, after being called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday, his flight from Syracuse was delayed and he arrived at Nationals Park too late to start.
He'll make up for lost time in the final 59 games of the season, Charlie Manuel promised.
"We will play him. We're going to put him out there and let him play," the manager said. When Brown arrived just as the Phillies finished batting practice, Manuel told Brown the same thing.
"It's good, man. It's definitely good for me, and I think it's going to be good for this ballclub. Just going out there and letting me sink or swim. We'll see what happens. And that's it," Brown said with a grin. "It felt great to be in the dugout. It felt like home. It's been a long time for me, but I'm here now and it's a great feeling."
Former IronPigs teammate Kevin Frandsen, who started Tuesday at third base for the Phillies, thinks Brown is ready.
"He'll be awesome," Frandsen predicted.
Pinch-hitting for starting pitcher Cliff Lee in the top of the eighth, Brown singled up the middle against Nationals reliever Henry Rodriguez. Manuel said Brown will start Wednesday night, but wasn't sure whether it would be in left or right. He's played all three outfield positions in the Minors in the last two years.
The Phillies haven't publicly written off their chances of getting back into the race this season, but trading Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence clearly means that the first steps toward trying to contend in 2013 are being taken. And a priority is finding out whether Brown, the outfielder who turns 25 in September, can be one of the building blocks.
Brown said he never thought the Phillies stopped believing in him and he never stopped believing in himself.
"Not at all. I really didn't," he said. "We've got some good guys up top and they let you know exactly what's going on. They've been great. Did I always expect to be back up here? Oh, yeah."
At the beginning of the season, there was some thought that he might benefit from a full season of development in the Minor Leagues. At the time, of course, a team that had won the last five National League East titles never envisioned being a seller at the Trade Deadline. So two outfielders were dealt. Brown was hitting well over the last couple weeks. There are questions for the future that need to start being answered in the present.
So now Brown will be given every opportunity to prove that he can be counted on moving forward. Ruben Amaro Jr., asked if the Phillies need to find three outfielders for next season, briefly seemed to hand Brown a job before backpedaling slightly.
"One [spot] right now is going to be occupied by Brownie. Obviously we're hopeful he can go ahead and do that. I think he's ready. We all think he's ready to get that opportunity. We'll see how it goes," the general manager said.
"It's been a strange year, man," said Brown. "But all I've done is gotten stronger because of all the obstacles I've gone through. It's been good, though. I've been swinging the bat pretty decent, playing good defense, doing whatever I've got to do to help the team."
Brown's career has had a couple false starts. In 2010, he made his Major League debut on July 28, but later missed 16 games with a sore right quadriceps and ended up getting just 62 at-bats. The following spring, reportedly competing to win a spot on the Opening Day roster, Brown began the season on the disabled list with a right hamate fracture. He was activated and sent to Lehigh Valley in May and ended up playing 56 games in the big leagues.
"I'm not even thinking about [the past]", said Brown. "I'm just moving forward with things. I'm definitely looking forward to this. They're definitely showing how much they have faith in me. I'm just going to go out and play hard. I'm not trying to replace anybody."
Brown got off to a slow start for the IronPigs this season, then went on the disabled list with a sprained knee. But after being activated, he was hitting .362 in 13 games prior to his promotion.
"More than anything else, I think he's mentally more ready for the challenge," Amaro said. "I think he's more physically ready for the challenge. Just from having talked to [player development director] Joe Jordan and [assistant general manager, player personnel] Benny Looper and [Lehigh Valley] manager Ryne Sandberg, and the people who have been watching him play this year, it seems like he's in a good state of mind, in a good physical place. We'll let him go play and see how it goes."
Both John Mayberry Jr. and newly acquired Nate Schierholtz will also get a chance to showcase themselves, but the expectation is that Brown will play almost every day.
"I think he's going to get a good chance, and he should feel good about that," Manuel said. "We're going to get a good chance to see him play, and if that was me, I would feel real good about that. Of course, I want him to come in and be relaxed, and I want him to play as hard as he possibly can and show what he can do."
Can Brown earn a spot next season in the time that's left this year?
"I would say if he gets 60 games and he can average four at-bats, that's 240 at-bats, that's a [heck] of a look. I think he can. I think he can definitely can," the manager said. "If he doesn't, I think we'll discuss that later, because he is going to get a chance. I don't look at it [as make or break]. It gives us a chance to see him, a chance to really get to see him if we can keep him in the lineup on a regular basis."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.