According to Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and hitting coach Greg Gross, the change was never supposed to be a dramatic one. They simply thought that, during the course of the 2010 season, Brown's hands had crept higher than normal, which affected his timing and balance at the plate. But the 23-year-old prospect struggled with the alteration, adjusting his hand position from at-bat to at-bat as he started the Grapefruit League season with an 0-for-15 slump.
Brown said that he and Gross talked often about his stance, and that the switch came with the coach's blessing.
"He just said, 'Whatever feels comfortable, Dom. Whatever got you here,' " Brown said. "And we went from there. As soon as I took the first swing, I knew, dang, I'm back right."
So it figures that he fractured the hamate in his right hand on that swing, an injury that required surgery on Tuesday and will sideline him for 3 to 6 weeks. Brown finished the at-bat, singling to centerfield to snap his skid, but left the game after reaching first.
His hand felt bad. But his swing felt good.
"That's why I didn't go out of the game right away, because maybe I thought I could shake it off," he said.
Instead, Brown will spend the next 10 days with a cast, protecting the stitches where a surgeon removed the hook of the hamate, a common procedure among hitters. He is expected to be able to start swinging a bat in 2 or 3 weeks, at which point he will begin a progression toward competitive play.
Brown almost certainly will not break camp with the Phillies, instead heading back to Triple A Lehigh Valley, where he played in only 28 games before his promotion to the majors late last July.
"That's no problem," Brown said. "I'll go to Triple A. Hey, like I say, I'm 23 years old. We'll see what happens. We've still got 3 or 4 weeks before that time even comes . . . Like I say always, as long as I'm playing baseball, I'm good."
Roy Halladay showed up to his locker sporting a slight black eye, the result of bunting practice gone awry a few days beforehand.
"It was self-defense," the veteran righthander said of the deflected baseball that struck him in the face.
The bruise didn't affect his performance against the Yankees, which culminated with strikeout of Jorge Posada on a 3-2 curveball with runners on second and third in the sixth inning. Halladay finished with four hits and two strikeouts in six scoreless innings in a 7-0 Phillies win.
Yankees lefty CC Sabathia was nearly as good, holding the Phillies scoreless for five innings.
Keep an eye on Mike Stutes, the 6-1, 185-pound righthander who right now looks to be the most major league-ready of the young relievers the Phillies have in their minor league system. The former Oregon State star retired Yankees stars Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson in a scoreless seventh inning yesterday: Cano via groundout, Swisher via fly ball, and Granderson via a popout to short stop.
Thus far this spring, Stutes has allowed one run and four hits in seven innings, striking out 11 and walking none.
Charlie Manuel has been impressed. In fact, the Phillies manager said an umpire in Fort Myers earlier this week pulled him aside and raved about Stutes, saying the righthander has the most impressive late burst/movement on his fastball he's seen all spring.
Former Padres prospect Josh Barfield, who hit .280 with a .741 on-base plus slugging percentage and 13 home runs as a rookie in 2006, is making his case for consideration for a spot on the Phillies bench. The second baseman, whom Manuel described as an "adequate" defender, singled off Sabathia and tripled off David Robertson, and is now 7-for-12 this spring . . . John Mayberry Jr., who is competing for playing time in rightfield but started yesterday at first, hit his third home run of the spring, a two-run shot off lefty Robert Fish . . . Scheduled to pitch today against the Orioles in Sarasota: lefthander Cliff Lee and righthanders Eddie Bonine, Andrew Carpenter, Danys Baez and Brad Lidge . . . Yesterday's crowd of 10,718 was the second largest in the history of Bright House Field. *