Brown Aims to Finish Strong

It has been year of growth for the St. Lucie right-hander. After a scorching summer in 2006 in the NY-Penn League, Brown moved on to the Florida State League with the hunger to expand his game. But, things have not worked out entirely to plan. Inside Pitch revisited with him to find out how he has worked through patchy times.

"Last year, I knew I was going to come out and pitch seven innings," Eric Brown said of his outings in Brooklyn. "But this year, it was a different level coming in and I didn't know how it would be and I didn't have any confidence really early. I think that set me back a bit from the start."

The start was certainly rough. He posted a 6.55 earned run average in five appearances (four starts) in the season's first month. The rocky start was made worse by a lack of control of just about his entire repertoire, which took a large amount of the first half of the year to regain.

"I had the pitches in spring training, especially my change up," he said. "I struggled with my slider early, which I think was an arm slot issue. I think I was overthrowing my fastball which hurt my location, and I shied away from my changeup."

"I had been inconsistent with my mechanics, losing the feel of the ball and my arm slot. But things are coming together. I needed to finish my pitches, get extended and have a clean follow through," he said.

He worked closely with pitching coach Dan Murray to find his mechanics and turn his season around, which has come to fruition within the last month. He has gone at least six innings in four of his last five starts in which he has surrendered one run or less in each. As each start came, more control returned and the 23-year-old built more and more confidence.

"It definitely helps having starts like that after the drop in the quality starts I had. I told myself that as long as I execute, I'll be fine," he said. "I can't go out to the mound worrying about what will happen if I leave a ball up or miss my spot. If I can do what I've been doing in the bullpen sessions, everything will be fine.

Pitch selection and timing aided Brown's ability to recapture the feel and control of his pitches. He worked with his catchers to find predetermined counts and situations to throw pitches. Knowing when a specific pitch would be thrown allowed Brown to throw it with more faith.

"I've been doing that with my changeup. I've told the catchers before games that I'm going to use my changeup in a fastball count, like a 1-1 count. I've had good confidence with it and it's worked for me lately. My slider is my out pitch on 1-2, 0-2, so I've used it much more in those counts," he explained.

The improved secondary pitches could raise his strikeout total, one area that is noticeably lacking from his resume. In 119 2/3 innings pitched this year, Brown rang up just 56 batters. Yet thanks to a 2-to-1 groundball-to-flyball ratio, Brown shrugs off the notion that he needs more strikeouts. Instead, he knows his game is best suited to play off his defense and keep his fielders active.

"I don't worry about numbers like that. I keep the ball on the ground and get the occasional strikeout," he said. "I don't look to strikeout many guys because that will get my pitch count up. I'd rather get deep into a game getting quick outs on ground balls and get the big ‘K' when I need it."

Another area Brown continues to battle with his situational pitching, notably, with runners in scoring position. With runners on base or in scoring position, his ERA balloons to 9.42. Unlike his repertoire which was a physical problem, such scenarios were an uphill mental battle. He admitted he lacked the conviction to pitch accurately as runners threatened.

"For me, it was a mental thing for most of the early part of the season. Every time someone got on base, it seemed like they ended up scoring," he started. "Lately though, it's turned around. I used to think ‘here we go again'. I've had to really bear down and say ‘that's enough'. That's the attitude I have now, not permitting guys to score."

Oddly enough, pitching in pressure situations is what has led to his recent resurgence. His problems culminated when had to pitch from the stretch, but that was when he learned to maintain composure and let his pitches travel naturally. Early on when he tried to work out of jams, he would press and end up overthrowing, or lose the effective and necessary arm action, both of which left balls up in the zone.

"I would get myself in more trouble. I'd try to blow it by everyone and the ball would be flat and lead to more hits. Now, I'm more focused on staying with the sinker, keeping it down and getting ground balls," said Brown.

As the team leader in innings pitched, Brown takes pride in that part of his game. Throughout the shaky starts, he always found ways to navigate deeper into games to not only spell his bullpen, but to demonstrate his tenacity.

"There have been occasions this where I haven't had my best stuff but I can still get through five or six innings. I think it shows that I just won't give into hitters and that I'll compete even when I'm struggling," he explained.

Brown has endured unforgiving times this season as he has battled to find what works best. He is young and his tools are developing, but it is evident that to really take the next step, more control is needed on every pitch. Where he starts next season is dependent on how he finishes this year, not only statistically, but notable growth is necessary. Coming down the home stretch, he has been one few players to open up and say that next season does become a factor as the calendar ticks down to the season's end.

"I want to have my pitches come back to where I want and need them and set it all up for next year," he said. "I know that last season I went through the off-season with a great feeling and it made me want to work harder."

"Now, if I can finish up this year, it will be the same way. But if I finish poorly, it can eat at me. I don't want to have to go back out there and show everyone what I can do. I want to that momentum carry into next season when I continue the progress I've made."


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n\"Last year, I knew I was going to come out and pitch seven innings,\" Eric Brown said of his outings in Brooklyn. \"But this year, it was a different level coming in and I didn't know how it would be and I didn't have any confidence really early. I think that set me back a bit from the start.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe start was certainly rough. He posted a 6.55 earned run average in five appearances (four starts) in the season's first month. The rocky start was made worse by a lack of control of just about his entire repertoire, which took a large amount of the first half of the year to regain.
\r\n
\r\n\"I had the pitches in spring training, especially my change up,\" he said. \"I struggled with my slider early, which I think was an arm slot issue. I think I was overthrowing my fastball which hurt my location, and I shied away from my changeup.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I had been inconsistent with my mechanics, losing the feel of the ball and my arm slot. But things are coming together. I needed to finish my pitches, get extended and have a clean follow through,\" he said.
\r\n
\r\nHe worked closely with pitching coach Dan Murray to find his mechanics and turn his season around, which has come to fruition within the last month. He has gone at least six innings in four of his last five starts in which he has surrendered one run or less in each. As each start came, more control returned and the 23-year-old built more and more confidence.
\r\n
\r\n\"It definitely helps having starts like that after the drop in the quality starts I had. I told myself that as long as I execute, I'll be fine,\" he said. \"I can't go out to the mound worrying about what will happen if I leave a ball up or miss my spot. If I can do what I've been doing in the bullpen sessions, everything will be fine.
\r\n
\r\nPitch selection and timing aided Brown's ability to recapture the feel and control of his pitches. He worked with his catchers to find predetermined counts and situations to throw pitches. Knowing when a specific pitch would be thrown allowed Brown to throw it with more faith.
\r\n
\r\n\"I've been doing that with my changeup. I've told the catchers before games that I'm going to use my changeup in a fastball count, like a 1-1 count. I've had good confidence with it and it's worked for me lately. My slider is my out pitch on 1-2, 0-2, so I've used it much more in those counts,\" he explained.
\r\n
\r\nThe improved secondary pitches could raise his strikeout total, one area that is noticeably lacking from his resume. In 119 2/3 innings pitched this year, Brown rang up just 56 batters. Yet thanks to a 2-to-1 groundball-to-flyball ratio, Brown shrugs off the notion that he needs more strikeouts. Instead, he knows his game is best suited to play off his defense and keep his fielders active.
\r\n
\r\n\"I don't worry about numbers like that. I keep the ball on the ground and get the occasional strikeout,\" he said. \"I don't look to strikeout many guys because that will get my pitch count up. I'd rather get deep into a game getting quick outs on ground balls and get the big ‘K' when I need it.\"
\r\n
\r\nAnother area Brown continues to battle with his situational pitching, notably, with runners in scoring position. With runners on base or in scoring position, his ERA balloons to 9.42. Unlike his repertoire which was a physical problem, such scenarios were an uphill mental battle. He admitted he lacked the conviction to pitch accurately as runners threatened.
\r\n
\r\n\"For me, it was a mental thing for most of the early part of the season. Every time someone got on base, it seemed like they ended up scoring,\" he started. \"Lately though, it's turned around. I used to think ‘here we go again'. I've had to really bear down and say ‘that's enough'. That's the attitude I have now, not permitting guys to score.\"
\r\n
\r\nOddly enough, pitching in pressure situations is what has led to his recent resurgence. His problems culminated when had to pitch from the stretch, but that was when he learned to maintain composure and let his pitches travel naturally. Early on when he tried to work out of jams, he would press and end up overthrowing, or lose the effective and necessary arm action, both of which left balls up in the zone.
\r\n
\r\n\"I would get myself in more trouble. I'd try to blow it by everyone and the ball would be flat and lead to more hits. Now, I'm more focused on staying with the sinker, keeping it down and getting ground balls,\" said Brown.
\r\n
\r\nAs the team leader in innings pitched, Brown takes pride in that part of his game. Throughout the shaky starts, he always found ways to navigate deeper into games to not only spell his bullpen, but to demonstrate his tenacity.
\r\n
\r\n\"There have been occasions this where I haven't had my best stuff but I can still get through five or six innings. I think it shows that I just won't give into hitters and that I'll compete even when I'm struggling,\" he explained.
\r\n
\r\nBrown has endured unforgiving times this season as he has battled to find what works best. He is young and his tools are developing, but it is evident that to really take the next step, more control is needed on every pitch. Where he starts next season is dependent on how he finishes this year, not only statistically, but notable growth is necessary. Coming down the home stretch, he has been one few players to open up and say that next season does become a factor as the calendar ticks down to the season's end.
\r\n
\r\n\"I want to have my pitches come back to where I want and need them and set it all up for next year,\" he said. \"I know that last season I went through the off-season with a great feeling and it made me want to work harder.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Now, if I can finish up this year, it will be the same way. But if I finish poorly, it can eat at me. I don't want to have to go back out there and show everyone what I can do. I want to that momentum carry into next season when I continue the progress I've made.\"
\r\n
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