New outfield helps Phillies defeat Nationals, 3-2

Posted: August 02, 2012

WASHINGTON - Domonic Brown watched the clock Tuesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport. His connecting flight from New York to Washington was supposed to land shortly before 5 p.m., leaving him just enough time to make his long-awaited return to the majors.

Then an hour flight delay became two hours, and manager Charlie Manuel was forced to exclude Brown from his lineup.

"I was all anxious," Brown said.

The day arrived Wednesday, when, in a 3-2 win over Washington, the Phillies unveiled their makeshift outfield in the wake of two trades. Brown started in left, John Mayberry Jr. manned center, and Nate Schierholtz was in right.

Schierholtz lashed two hits, including a go-ahead solo home run in the fifth inning. Brown was 0 for 4 and threw a laser from left field that gunned down a runner at home.

Behind Vance Worley's seven solid innings and two Jimmy Rollins homers, the Phillies topped the first-place Nationals for the second straight game. Victories are hollow these days; the Phillies still trail Washington by 141/2 games.

So the tryouts transcend the line scores. Both Brown and Schierholtz have something to prove in the season's final two months for different reasons. Brown's audition is not a make-or-break proposition. Schierholtz is cherishing his opportunity because he has few guarantees.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Wednesday he plans for Brown to be one of his starting outfielders in 2013.

"I would view him as a guy we would be committed to," Amaro said, "unless there is something that happens in the next six months of baseball that would change that."

In other words, as long as Brown stays healthy and does not massively fail, he has a spot.

"It's good, man," Brown said. "It's definitely good for me, and it's going to be good for this ball club as well, just going out there and letting me sink or swim. We'll see what happens, and that's it."

For Schierholtz, there are no promises. He spent most of his time in San Francisco as a part-time player before being traded for Hunter Pence. In 503 career games, Schierholtz is a .270 hitter.

"We'll look at him," Manuel said.

That, Schierholtz intimated, is more of a chance than he expected with the Giants. He did not speak highly of his former manager, Bruce Bochy, and believed he would never hold an everyday role there.

"I just felt like I had a short leash," Schierholtz said. "It was series by series. If I didn't perform for three games, that was my chance. It got frustrating at times. We didn't see eye to eye."

Schierholtz, 28, has played parts of six seasons and never started more than 77 games in a single year. He said he never demanded a trade but did voice his desire for an opportunity to play more.

The last-place Phillies will provide that for at least two months.

If anything, Schierholtz could at least confirm the idea he is a suitable platoon player. The Phillies are likely to pursue an outfielder via free agency and could use a combination of Schierholtz, Mayberry, or Laynce Nix to fill one of the corner spots.

"I'm just happy to be here," Schierholtz said, "and happy to have a fresh start."

Brown's start is just as fresh. The 24-year-old made his first major-league start in 369 days.

"It felt like I'm at home," Brown said.

Manuel said he planned to try Brown at all three outfield positions to see which he is most comfortable at. He made his first major-league start in left Wednesday and awkwardly fielded a single to left in the second inning but fired a bullet to home plate. Nationals pitcher Edwin Jackson was easily tagged out.

Amaro, in talking with minor-league coaches and officials, believes Brown is better equipped to handle a regular role in the majors after a series of disappointments and injuries.

"What Ruben is doing is a good deal," Brown said. "It definitely shows how much they have faith in me."


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @magelb.

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