Brown finds new life playing center field

Domonic Brown is finding his stroke since moving to center field from left for Lehigh Valley.The top prospect has hit four home runs since the May 24 move, after hitting none before.He entered the weekend batting .276.
Domonic Brown is finding his stroke since moving to center field from left for Lehigh Valley.The top prospect has hit four home runs since the May 24 move, after hitting none before.He entered the weekend batting .276. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 11, 2012

ALLENTOWN - It may be too soon to suggest that former Phillies top prospect Domonic Brown has turned things around at Lehigh Valley, but the player who spent parts of the previous two seasons in the major leagues appears to have a renewed enthusiasm, and it has shown in his recent play.

All it took was shagging some fly balls during a batting practice to rejuvenate Brown, who turns 25 in September.

Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development, said he saw Brown shagging fly balls in center field one day, and noticed a twinkle in the outfielder's eye.

"He looked like he was having fun chasing the ball down and he looked so comfortable," Jordan said. "A few of us put our heads together and agreed that the game should be made more enjoyable for him."

So Brown was moved to center field, beginning with a May 24 game at Charlotte. He is still playing some left field, but entering the weekend had appeared eight times in center.

Before moving to center, Brown had not hit a home run. He has four since, including two in Tuesday's 10-1 win over the Gwinnett Braves. He entered the weekend batting .276 with four home runs and 21 RBIs.

Brown certainly sees a correlation between moving to center and improving his offense.

"I am more comfortable in center," he said. "When feeling comfortable defensively, it will translate to your offense as well."

Jordan is in his first year with the Phillies after serving as director of scouting for the Baltimore Orioles the previous seven years. He had seen Brown throughout his career and thought something was missing.

"I saw him a couple of years ago and he was relaxing and having fun, and I felt he lost some of that and wasn't playing with the same amount of ease," Jordan said. "Now I see a player moving back toward approaching the game the way he was approaching it, and there is progress."

Then Jordan stated the main goal.

"We need to get his confidence and comfort level where it was a few years ago," he said.

Brown said it's easier to play in center because he gets a much better read on the ball.

"In left field you have spins and dips, but in center the ball comes at you and stays pretty true," he said.

That's not to suggest that Brown is averse to playing the corners. But there is no denying his comfort level is much greater in center.

The fact that Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino is a free agent after this season gives Brown more marketability.

"Shane is a tremendous athlete and player, and for him to leave Philly I don't see it, but if something was to happen, I think I am ready to step up and make the move," Brown said.

Lehigh Valley manager Ryne Sandberg has noticed the recent improvement in Brown.

"He has done a nice job in center and in left field and has taken it to home plate with good at-bats," Sandberg said. "He seems to be getting more aggressive at the plate and is squaring balls up, so that is a good sign."

Brown, who was hampered earlier this season by a hamstring injury, understands that he need to stay healthy, get his at-bats, and keep working on defense, wherever he plays in the outfield.

"I think if I stay healthy, then everything will take care of itself," he said.

He insists his only goal is to keep working on his total game, but Brown wouldn't be human if he didn't hope his play impresses the Phillies brass.

"I am waiting for Ruben and those guys to see I am ready, and when they say I'm ready, let's go," Brown said, referring to Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. "Until then, I will keep improving and having fun."


TOP 25 PHILLIES PROSPECTS:

philly.com/philliesprospects

MULTIMEDIA COVERAGE: philly.com/minors

 


Contact Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225, mnarducci@phillynews.com or on Twitter @sjnard.

 

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