Labeled two summers ago as one of the top five prospects in baseball, Brown has suffered through a couple of injury-plagued seasons since, and his stock as a future star in the game was sunk. It's probably no coincidence that his power has disappeared in the same time frame.
After hitting 14 home runs in 103 games between Class A Clearwater and Double A Reading in 2009, Brown hit 20 in 93 games between Reading and Triple A Lehigh Valley in 2010.
But in the last two seasons, Brown hit only 10 home runs in 111 minor league games, including five in 60 games this season. The power outage carried over when Brown was promoted to the Phillies on July 31: He hit one home run in his first 35 games. He also had only three extra-base hits in his first 18 games.
Slowly, Brown has begun to show signs that his bat is capable of providing more pop. His home run on Monday night off NL Cy Young candidate R.A. Dickey was Brown's third in his last eight games.
Since ending an 0-for-19 slump at Cincinnati 2 weeks ago, Brown has hit safely in eight of 12 games with three home runs, two doubles, a triple, nine RBI, eight walks and 10 strikeouts. While his .268 batting average during that span isn't eye-popping, his .400 on-base percentage and .985 OPS are plenty attractive.
"I'm starting to feel comfortable," Brown said after taking a few dry swings in front of his locker on Tuesday at Citi Field, before inclement weather postponed the game against the Mets.
Brown's comfort at the plate and the power that's resulted have coincided with his newfound ability to pull the ball consistently. In the first month since being recalled from Triple A, Brown regularly hit the ball to leftfield.
But in the last week, Brown has found life on the other half of the field. Following Friday's home run into the rightfield upper deck at Minute Maid Park, Brown ripped a triple at Citi Field to right-center on Monday and later cleared the rightfield fence for his second home run in four games.
"That shows you that's the kind of hitter has to be," Manuel said. "He wants to and still needs to use the whole field, but at the same time when the ball is middle in, he needs to stay behind it and be smooth like he hit those two balls [Monday] night. That's when he's going to improve, when he learns how he does it and what to do to get there."
So is Brown making a conscious effort to pull the ball more . . . or is it just working out that way?
"I think it's just happening," Brown said. " I'm just trying to hit the ball where it's pitched, really. They've been throwing a lot more balls in in the last couple of series. So I don't know if that's in the reports or if they're missing, but I'm finally connecting on those pitches."
Since both Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are not getting any younger - and have become more injury-prone, too - the Phils need an injection of power into their lineup. Once upon a time, Brown was supposed to be that injection.
Could he be that guy in 2013?
"I don't know what he can do. What's the most [homers] he's ever hit?" Manuel said before being reminded of the 20 home runs in 2010. "Is he capable of doing it? Does he have the strength? Yeah. He's definitely getting better. He's getting better. I like where he's at."
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