The Strange Case of Domonic Brown

As tough as it was for Domonic Brown to struggle late last season when he was coming off the bench, this season has been even tougher. The top prospect has even faced boos from IronPigs fans.

For the second season in a row, Domonic Brown is in a serious late season slump. You can almost pinpoint the exact date of Brown's annual slump and it comes right around August 11. Last season, from August 11 to the end of the season, Brown was with the Phillies and started to face the wrath of the Phillies fans when his slump lingered longer than they felt that it should. This season, the slump started right around the same time and reached its high point on August 29 when Brown made multiple bad plays in left field and went 0-for-6 with four strikeouts at the plate. Brown, usually loved at Coca-Cola Park, was roundly booed. It was disclosed a couple days later that Brown was playing with flu-like symptoms and actually missed a few games because of the issue.

Last season, Brown hit .148 (4-for-27) from August 11 on and this season, he hit .207 (12-for-58). Over the last two August and Septembers, Brown is hitting .209 (29-for-139). Much of his 2010 late season slump can be contributed to the fact that for the first time in his career, he was getting a lot of his at-bats coming off the bench and playing sparingly as the Phillies made their annual late season run.

Late in the season last year, Brown got himself into a spot where he was literally changing something about his mechanics at the plate from at-bat to at-bat and sometimes from pitch-to-pitch. He was showing the growing pains of a young player who was simply trying to do too much. Again this season, much of Brown's slump issue would seem to be with his mental approach.

With Lehigh Valley in the International League playoffs, Brown's struggles have continued and he's hitting just .056 (1-for-18) this post-season with Lehigh Valley. Even with his struggles, manager Ryne Sandberg is sticking with Brown and keeping him in the fifth spot in the order, behind the hot-hitting Brandon Moss.

"I make the lineup," said Sandberg when asked if he was given any instruction from the Phillies front office on how to use Brown.

"Right now, I just feel like having [Scott] Podsednik, [Rich] Thompson and [Brandon] Moss in the outfield gives us speed and better options defensively."

After a loss Thursday night, putting Lehigh Valley down 2-1 in games in their best-of-five series with Columbus, Sandberg avoided discussion of Brown's 0-for-3 performance and instead focused on the fact that Brown drew a walk in a key spot that put the tying run on second base. Sandberg seemed a little annoyed when asked if Brown would be in the lineup Friday night.

"You guys [the media] have been telling me he should be playing. You can't have it both ways," explained Sandberg, who then chuckled.

Apparently, Sandberg decided that sitting Brown in favor of Delwyn Young as a DH was the best way to go in game four of the series.

For his part, Brown has been doing all he can to pull himself out of the slump. He's often found taking extra hitting in the batting cage underneath Coca-Cola Park, even during games when he's slotted in as the team's DH. The effects of the slump on Brown are noticeable though. Watching his mannerisms, he looks like he's a guy who is struggling and it's difficult for him to battle mentally.

Jeff Schuler of The Morning Call asked Brown about whether he believes he'll be playing in the majors after the IronPigs playoff run ends and for the first time, Brown didn't seem enthusiastic about the opportunity. In fact, Brown sounded like a man who can't wait for his season to end.

"No, not at all," Brown told Schuler when asked if he would be bothered by not getting the call from the Phillies. "That's probably what they might do and it's not too big a deal to me."

Brown also told Schuler that for the first time in his career, he won't be playing winter ball.

Brown's slump and comments about being promoted didn't change the plans to bring him to Philadelphia after the IronPigs season ended with a 4-1 loss Friday night. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is one of Brown's biggest supporters and he let it be known that he wanted Brown in Philadelphia when the International League post-season ended.

Brown's slump also didn't dilute his position with the club as far as his prospect status, except that had he been on a late-season tear rather than a slump, he might have come into spring training as the odds-on-favorite to win the left field job which figures to be vacated by Raul Ibanez. Now, he'll likely be back where he was last spring, trying to win a job in spring training, with competition from John Mayberry Jr. for the left field job.



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