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02/21/12 3:10 PM EST

Brown aiming to stay on board with Phils

Outfielder is projected to start season at Triple-A level

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies made a point this offseason to say they fully planned to have Domonic Brown start the 2012 season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

He needed more time to learn to play left field.

He needed more at-bats.

He needed to get his confidence back.

Brown spoke to reporters on Tuesday morning at Bright House Field and said all the right things about his upcoming season. But when a reporter said it sounded like Brown was at peace with his fate to spend the year with the IronPigs, he said, "Almost at peace? I'm not almost at peace if I start at Triple-A. I think you've got me wrong there. I'm coming to win a job. I'm fighting to win a job. That's the big goal. But if I start at Triple-A, then I start at Triple-A. It's that simple."

In other words, just because the Phils say they plan to play him in Triple-A, it doesn't mean he should not try to win a job.

Why wouldn't he try?

Brown has had fits and starts in his short big league career. The Phillies promoted him to the Majors in 2010, but he spent much of the second half of the season sitting on the bench. He struggled in winter ball that year before struggling at the beginning of Spring Training last year. Brown broke his hand in the spring, and after he recovered, he hit .341 in 11 games at Triple-A. The Phils promoted him at that point, but sent him back to Triple-A when they acquired Hunter Pence in July. Brown hit .227 in his final 30 games with the IronPigs. He struggled even more in left field, where Philadelphia moved him because Pence is going to be the team's right fielder at least the next two seasons.

The front office has acknowledged it could have handled Brown better the last couple seasons, hinting it might have stunted his development.

Brown's star has lost some of its shine because of that, especially because the Phillies seem likely to use a combination of John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix in left field this season. But Brown remains confident he will bounce back and prove himself.

"It's a learning transition," Brown said. "I came out there and I wanted to be the best. That's how I look at it. But there's going to be struggles, and I'm glad I learned from that last year and move forward. I think the more and more I play, the more and more I'm going to get relaxed. I think that's the big key."

Brown spent his offseason in Clearwater and has been working out hard. He has been working on his hitting with Minor League hitting coordinator Steve Henderson and Gary Sheffield, whom he met at a hitting facility.

"He just opened his arms toward me and we've been close ever since," Brown said of Sheffield.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said over the weekend that Brown could work himself into a job, softening his stance a bit from the winter. But Brown might need to play extraordinarily well to enter that conversation.

If it doesn't happen, Brown will have plenty of time to hone his game in Lehigh Valley.

"If I go to Triple-A, I go to Triple-A," he said. "Going out and playing hard, that's all I can do. ... The more I play out there [in left field], the more comfortable I'm going to get. I know that. It's just playing. If I go to Triple-A, it's not that big a deal."

But it is.

"I kind of believe that if you play hard, do things the right way, great things are going to happen for you," Brown said. "If you think great, you're going to be great."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.