Domonic Brown has another chance to show Phillies he deserves to start

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Domonic Brown has been hampered by injury and inconsistency.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Domonic Brown has been hampered by injury and inconsistency.
Posted: January 25, 2013

In each of the last two springs, Domonic Brown had a chance to win a starting job. He batted 16 times in 2011 before a freak fracture of a bone in his wrist handed Ben Francisco right field. Last spring, Brown batted all of 20 times while hamstrung by thumb, neck, and knee ailments. John Mayberry Jr. started in left on opening day.

This is not revisionist history. Was Brown guaranteed anything by the Phillies? Absolutely not. Did he do enough to secure anything? Definitely not.

So, with a few weeks before camp opens, Brown stares down his third chance. The 25-year-old was anointed the Phillies' best prospect for three straight years by Baseball America. He has batted 492 times in parts of three major-league seasons with inconsistent results, at times displaying the tantalizing talent that seduced scouts. Mostly, he grades as incomplete because the sample size is much too small.

"I'm kind of interested to see how guys react to the opportunities they'll have in spring training," Ruben Amaro Jr. said, "because they're going to have the chance to play."

The Phillies general manager was not talking specifically about Brown. But if the erstwhile top prospect cannot beat out Darin Ruf, Mayberry, and Laynce Nix for playing time this spring, it could finally signal the end of a complicated marriage.

Amaro created this drama by signing Delmon Young to a one-year, $750,000 deal and labeled him the everyday rightfielder "in a perfect world." That was viewed as Brown's spot. It had not been guaranteed. Brown did not lose a job. And there was no reason to hand Brown a job given his injury history.

When asked if there needed to be a platoon in left, Amaro said: "Not necessarily." Consider the competition: Ruf is 26, has never played outfield for a full season, and has 37 major-league plate appearances. Mayberry, 29, resembled a platoon player more than a regular during 2012, his first full season. Nix, 32 and the highest-paid outfielder on the roster, is a bench player.

Again, this all assumes Young can competently man a position he has not played for six years; overcome microfracture surgery on his ankle; and maintain acceptable conditioning, all while hitting for power in the middle of Charlie Manuel's lineup. There very well could be two corner spots to fill.

The Phillies will let spring training decide things. Two team officials admitted it would be ideal if Brown could finally seize his moment. That way, either Ruf or Mayberry could occasionally pop into the lineup maybe to spell Brown against a tough lefty or provide rest for Young.

Both Ruf and Brown have options remaining, so they could be sent to the minors. Mayberry does not.

"Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf will be battling out in left field," Amaro said, later adding that Mayberry was "in the mix as well."

Whatever is said between now and April 1 has little bearing. It will be decided on the field, and the Phillies' request of Brown is reasonable: Show us.

He has amassed a total of 36 at-bats in 13 Grapefruit League games during the last two springs. You can point fingers regarding the handling of Brown over the years, but the fact remains that he is still 25. There is time. There is opportunity.

It's not Delmon Young, Darin Ruf, John Mayberry Jr., or Laynce Nix who will prevent Domonic Brown from attaining a regular role.

More for less. Amaro used the word motivated often Tuesday to describe Young, who settled for a $6 million pay cut to join the Phillies. Young admitted he developed bad habits last season once he knew he was destined for designated hitter duty in Detroit.

"When I knew I wasn't going to see the field," Young said, "you can eat just a little bit extra."

Young said he weighed in at 238 pounds Tuesday during his physical examination. He'll need to lose more weight if he is to make an extra $600,000. How's that for motivation?

Young's one-year, $750,000 contract includes bonuses based on his weight, according to the Associated Press. Young must be weighed six separate instances, with the timing chosen by the Phils.

Each time he makes weight, Young receives $100,000. The first three times he must weigh 230 pounds or less. He must weigh 235 or less for the last three weigh-ins.

Young said his opening-day weight in 2012 was 225.

Extra bases. The Phillies invited six more players to spring training, including third baseman Cody Asche and catcher Tommy Joseph, two of the team's top position-player prospects. Also invited were pitchers Adam Morgan, Kyle Simon, and Justin Friend. . . . Outfielder Joe Mather, who played in 103 games for the Cubs last season, was signed to a minor-league deal and added to camp. Mather, 30, is a career .219/.271/.357 hitter in 229 major-league games.


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com.

Follow on Twitter @magelb.

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