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03/13/12 6:20 PM ET

Brown atones for gaffe with clutch home run

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- What's even better than hitting a home run to give your team a lead in the top of the 10th inning?

For Phillies left fielder Domonic Brown at Osceola County Stadium on Tuesday, it was doing that after making a defensive lapse that had allowed the Astros to tie the score in the first place.

"I've got to catch that ball. So I was a little enthused to get up there and make a big play," Brown said after the Astros rallied for a 6-5 win.

In the bottom of the eighth, Carlos Lee led off with a drive right at Brown. He took a step in, froze and then watched helplessly as the ball sailed over his head for a double. Pinch-runner Brandon Barnes eventually scored the tying run.

So when Brown came up with one out and nobody on in the 10th, he took a good rip at a first-pitch fastball from Enerio Del Rosario and drove it over the right-field fence.

That illustrates both the promise for Brown, who was making his first start in left since injuring his thumb diving for a fly ball a week earlier, and the part of his game that he needs to work on.

"He hit a couple balls real hard," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Real good. When he hits the ball on the nose, he moves it. His hand [injury] has kind of slowed him down as far as getting at-bats. He's going to be a good hitter. He's got a chance to be a good hitter."

What about his defense?

"He's got to get better," Manuel said. "I don't like to talk a lot about his defense. I like to put him out there and see if he can improve. I'm sure he thinks enough about it. He wants to do good and it's just a matter of getting comfortable. He'll get better."

Brown, who was switched from right field to left after Hunter Pence was acquired last season, remains confident he'll get the hang of it.

"I want the ball in my hands," he said." A lot of guys say that, but I really do. Those mess-ups in the field, I know they're going to happen. But I think I'm strong enough mentally. I want to be the man in that situation."

Martinez suffers elbow bruise on pick-off throw

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Versatile Phillies infielder Michael Martinez had to leave Tuesday's game when he was hit on the right elbow on a pick-off attempt in the fifth inning of a 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Astros.

He was on second base with two outs when Astros starter Livan Hernandez whirled and tried to catch him napping. Martinez was on the ground for several moments, then was replaced by pinch-runner Kevin Frandsen.

The Phillies announced that he has a right elbow bruise. He's not expected to miss more than a couple of games.

Martinez said he was surprised that Hernandez would throw to second with two outs.

"I wasn't going anywhere," he said.

One of the reasons the Phillies felt comfortable trading utility man Wilson Valdez to the Reds for left-handed reliever Jeremy Horst during the offseason was that they believed Martinez could step into that role. Coincidentally, it was Horst who gave up a three-run walk-off homer to Houston's Brian Bixler in the 10th.

Hamels gets back to throwing free and easy

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels pitched well enough last season to finish fifth in the National League Cy Young Award voting.

What makes that more impressive is that he did it with bone chips in his elbow, which were removed during the offseason. Now he said he's throwing better than ever, which can't be a comforting thought for the hitters he'll face this year.

"It wasn't necessarily that an actual pitch would hurt. It's just that my whole arm was tight, and that can affect everything you're throwing when your arm's not loose," he said after allowing one run in five innings in Tuesday's 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Astros at Osceola County Stadium.

"If you get punched in the forearm and it knots up, that's kind of the way it felt. My forearm was really, really tight. That's what limited me from getting more action on my pitches."

Hamels was sharp Tuesday, throwing 61 pitches, 44 for strikes. He said he used his trademark changeup about a quarter of the time and tried to throw at least a couple of curves each inning.

"My changeup has been working so far. I'm still trying to get all the rest of the pitches in," he said. "It's just nice getting to a situation where I can just throw the changeup, just reading the swings off the hitters and being able to go to it. But there's always work to be done no matter how it's working. I can still always work on throwing it to different areas and getting more the action that I know I have. So it's coming."

Worth noting

• Cole Hamels was the first Phillies pitcher to work five innings this spring.

• Layne Nix was scratched from Tuesday's game with lingering chest soreness that resulted from a home plate collision on Sunday. He's expected to be ready to play shortly.

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