A lot has been made about Domonic Brown and his hands. Are they too high? Did he compensate and drop them too low? Where are they now? Inquiring minds want to know. The official word from Domonic Brown is that they're right where they need to be. "I'm back to the swing that I was at last year," reports Brown, who officially begins his season with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Brown believes that part of the problem last season while he was with the Phillies was that he wasn't comfortable not playing every day. "My hands just kept getting up a little bit. I wasn't playing everyday, so we were just trying to get them down to where they were and then they just kept dropping."
Brown went through an impressive 2010 season both at Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley and fans couldn't wait to see what he would do at the major league level. Brown hit a combined 20-68-.327-.391-.589 in the minors last season before joining the Phillies when the big league club had a rash of injuries and needed some healthy bodies. From there, Brown hit .210 in 70 plate appearances with the Phillies. After tough times in Philly, Brown went on to play winter in the Dominican Winter League and things were even worse there. In nine games, Brown hit .069 and the Phillies ended his time in the Dominican early. The story was that Brown was "tired" and just needed a break. So, when it came to changing his swing, who had that idea?
"We kind of made a team decision on it (changing his swing). Me, Charlie (Manuel) and Greg Gross all worked on it," admitted Brown.
After his time off over the winter, Brown came into spring training with the fairly recent memory of his struggles hanging over his head. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. spent the winter saying that Brown wasn't being given the right field job and that he would need to win the job in spring training. Brown was determined to win the job, but his hands were still moving all over - almost from pitch-to-pitch - and he admits now that he was taking the wrong approach every time he stepped to the plate. "In spring training, I was trying to hit a home run every time and I'm not going to do that here. That's not my job, I need to be patient and I wasn't doing that," remembers Brown.
Before long, Brown was lost because of a broken hamate bone in his right wrist, but he never lost confidence in what he was doing. What he did decide was that he had to get back to being the player he was in the minors last season. He sat in front of a video screen watching plenty of video of himself and working in front of a mirror to imitate what he was seeing on the screen. It was something that Brown did over and over while rehabbing and became part of his usual routine. That work has led Brown's hands back to their original spot and the early returns from Brown's time with Clearwater on his recent rehab assignment are impressive. In fact, he was impressive enough that the plans for Brown's rehab changed. Instead of heading for Double-A Reading after his stint with Clearwater, Brown was activated from the DL and optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
"I pretty much knew that I was coming here (Lehigh Valley), but I thought I would be going to Reading, first. I didn't get that many at-bats this spring, so that's why I'm here," explained Brown. "It's no big deal, it's nothing, we'll just see what happens."
One thing that won't happen is that Domonic Brown isn't going to rush things. "I'm not into making up for lost time," said Brown. The Phillies top prospect believes that everything happens for a reason and is willing to take things at whatever pace the Phillies want him to go. Brown admits that he closely follows what's going on at the major league level, but he doesn't let it change what he's doing on the game. "Right now, I'm thinking about Lehigh Valley. That's where my mind is now," said Brown prior to his first game of the season with Lehigh Valley.
IF Brown truly believes that things happen for a reason, perhaps the reason for him being at Lehigh Valley is Ryne Sandberg. The Hall of Fame player is now Boss Hogg at Lehigh Valley and Brown is looking forward to the experience of playing for him and Brown figures to make the most of it all. "It's cool to be here around that guy (Sandberg). I'm going to pick his brain and all that," laughed Brown. "To play for a guy with his standards and magnitude is just magnificent."
Going through all that Brown has gone through has taught him a lot. He learned how different things are in the majors, but has come through the experience as confident as ever. In fact, that may be the biggest thing that he learned through all of his trials and tribulations.
"I learned that I'm very confident in myself. That's what I base my game on is being confident."