Patience paying dividends for Brown, Phillies
Former top prospect coming into his own, leads team with 13 homers
PHILADELPHIA -- In his first at-bat, Domonic Brown swung at a breaking pitch outside the zone and grounded into a force play. Only by hustling down the line did he keep from getting doubled up.
"I told myself I was going to try not to do that the rest of the night," the Phillies left fielder said.
The patience paid off. Before Wednesday night's game was over, the 25-year-old former top prospect hit two more home runs in the Phillies' 4-3 win over the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park. That gave him four homers in the last three games and a team-leading 13 for the season. To put that in perspective, that's one more than he had in his entire career coming into the season.
"The first home run he took a couple pitches," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He got real selective and [Red Sox starter John Lackey] came to him. He's very confident right now."
The second homer came after he worked a 1-1 count from reliever Koji Uehara and then hammered a splitter into the blue seats in right-center field.
So the Phillies' patience in Brown is paying off, too. He was rushed to the big leagues because the club had a need three years ago. There were a couple minor injuries that held him back. He shuttled back and forth to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He's still not a finished product -- he's walked just nine times all year and still has rough edges in the field -- but he's getting better all the time.
The plan this year was to put him in the lineup and see what happened. He's started 50 of 53 games. And what's happened is that he's gone on a tear. He has 10 homers this month, the most by a Phillie in any month since Ryan Howard hit 11 in August 2009.
All of that is obviously gratifying to the organization that stuck with him. More important, it's been a godsend for a team that ranks 15th in the National League in runs scored and is trying to hold the fort until second baseman Chase Utley (oblique strain), catcher Carlos Ruiz (hamstring strain) and third baseman Michael Young (bereavement list) return. Brown leads the club with 32 RBIs.
"He's getting to play every day," Manuel said. "He's getting used to playing in the big leagues. He's learning more each day. That goes back to consistency and he's starting to get consistent with his hitting. And he can even get better. One of the biggest things in hitting is comfort -- being able to be comfortable. And if there's any doubt or negativity creeps in and you get tense, it's all about comfort. Comfort is everything. Tension kills a lot of good swings.
"Actually, I just want to leave him alone and let him play. I don't want him getting caught up in all the hoopla, people patting him on the back and telling him how good he is and all that. I want him to show me how good he is. I like it when he hits."
A certain amount of hoopla is inevitable when a hitter begins knocking the ball out of the park with the regularity that Brown has recently. But he's keeping it all in perspective. Asked when the last time was that he felt this locked in, he shrugged.
"I don't know," he said. "I had some good years in the Minor Leagues. I haven't really even thought about it at all. I'm just going out there trying to continue being better."
Asked about the obstacles he's overcome to get to this point, he shrugged again.
"I really haven't looked at it like that," he said. "All I know is it makes me a better man on and off the field. Going back down to the Minor Leagues, seeing how life really is, it's good to be having some success. But I'm trying to keep it going."
Brown did admit that he's noticed pitchers beginning to make adjustments.
"They're definitely changing stuff up," he said. "Like I said, the first at-bat, they were trying to make me swing at bad pitches out of the zone. I did that and they almost turned two on me. So they're changing their patterns and I'm trying to continue to keep working with it.
"[A couple years ago] they might have thrown one in and if I hit a home run, I might have been looking in again instead of looking for some offspeed pitches."
Brown is the reigning NL Player of the Week. At the rate he's going, it's not out of the question that he could repeat.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.