Confident Domonic Brown seizes his opportunity

Confident Domonic Brown seizes his opportunity

March 21, 2013, 4:30 pm
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Spring Training TV Schedule

Mar. 22, Braves at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Mar. 26 Rays at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Mar. 28 Blue Jays at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Mar. 29 Blue Jays at Phillies, 7 p.m., TCN

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Domonic Brown entered Thursday leading the Grapefruit League with 25 hits.

If there were a category for confidence, he’d be leading that one, too.

Check out this quote:

“In my mind I don’t feel like a pitcher can have enough stuff to get me out,” Brown said. “Even if they’re throwing 100 mph, I feel I can turn it around.”

Brown said this after lashing balls all over -- and out of -- Bright House Field during batting practice Thursday afternoon.

He didn’t say it in a cocky way. And he didn’t sound like a guy who was taking anything for granted.

He sounded like a guy who simply believes in himself.

After the numbers he’s put up in 22 games in Florida, why wouldn’t he? Brown is 25-for-63 (.397) with two doubles, six home runs and 12 RBIs. His on-base percentage is .465 and he is slugging .715.

Back at the start of the camp, one of the big questions surrounding this team was: Will Brown win a starting job in the outfield?

“I’d say he’s way out in front,” manager Charlie Manuel said Thursday. “He’s done about as good as you can.”

Using the handy, dandy manager-speak decoder program, Manuel’s comment can be translated this way:

Take it to the bank. Brown will be the rightfielder April 1 in Atlanta.

“It’ll be a dream come true for me,” the always-affable, 25-year-old outfielder said. “That’s what I’ve worked for.”

Phillies fans know Brown’s story well.

He was the prize of the farm system for several years. He was the untouchable when the Phillies first began pursuing Roy Halladay in the summer of 2009. Brown got pushed to the majors, probably before he was ready, in 2010 and endured some struggles. The next spring, he was one of the focal points of camp. He struggled badly in a competition for a starting job, suffered a broken hand and bounced between the minors and the majors. Last spring, he returned to big-league camp, but really wasn’t in competition for a big-league job. Team officials had decided even before camp began that Brown was going back to Triple A to work on all phases of his game. He returned to the majors after the July trade deadline and was underwhelming. He hit .235 with five homers, 26 RBIs in 187 at-bats. His defensive play was poor.

Over the winter, Phillies officials weren’t sure what they had in Brown.

Now?

“He’s very similar to what he was two or three years ago when he was one of the better prospects in the game,” GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “Hopefully he continues to do it. There’s no reason to think he can’t.”

Brown’s strong spring is a testament to good health (he was bothered by sore knees last season) and hard work. He spent the winter in Clearwater working on his defense and hitting. Both have improved and that has led to confidence.

“He’s put in the time,” Manuel said.

In addition to putting in the time, Brown has kept his ears open. He has listened to hitting coaches Steve Henderson and Wally Joyner. He has lowered his once-high hands to a position that allows him to get to pitches quicker.

“That’s allowing me to see the ball longer and recognize the pitch,” Brown said. “I’m not jumping out. I’m letting the ball come to me.”

At the suggestion of Joyner, Brown has moved the bat handle from deep in his hands to a position that brings out the whip in his lefthanded swing.

Not only is Brown’s swing shorter, but there are times when it appears effortless. Everything about his game right now points to a relaxed player, not one who is tentative and uptight worrying whether he’s going to make the team.

“I feel good and I’m having fun,” Brown said. “I’ve found some things that work.”

And the Phillies have found themselves an opening day rightfielder.

“There were doubters, but there were a lot of people in my corner too,” Brown said. “The Phillies never gave up on me.

“I’m really excited for the season.”