Brown Continues to Learn on the Job

If there is any form of life lesson that one should take to heart, it is that things can change in an instant. There is no one who knows that lesson better than Mud Hens right hander Brooks Brown.

With two days left in spring training of this year, Brown went to lunch as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks and came out of lunch as the newest member of the Detroit Tigers organization.

"I was in big league camp and I was supposed to start against the Colorado Rockies. We kind of thought something was going on while we were eating lunch. We knew Skelton was not going to make the big league club, so it was obvious one of us was going in return for him," Brown said.

The player Brown referred to is James Skelton, who was a Rule 5 draft pick from the Tigers. Arizona had taken him in hopes that the 24 year old catcher would make an impact behind the dish with the big league club. Skelton only hit .150 with one RBI this spring, and it was clear he was not ready to face big league pitching. Per the rules of the Rule 5 draft, Arizona either had to send him back to the Tigers, or they had to give someone back to the Tigers in return that Detroit would accept, and that someone was Brown.

"It was weird. They called me in and let me know what exactly was going on and told me I was traded to Detroit," Brown said.

Brown hopped on a plane and headed to Lakeland, where he started the next day to close out spring ball. Then he got on another plane and headed off to Erie.

"It was an exciting 72 hours for me. To go from Arizona to Lakeland to Erie, it just all happened so fast," Brown said.

There was not a whole lot known about the 24-year old right hander. His acquisition added another young pitcher with great potential in the Tigers' minor league system. Brown throws his fastball anywhere from 87-93 mph. He also throws a sinker, a slider, and a change up. His slider had been ranked one of the best in the Diamondbacks organization before the trade.

"I try to throw my slider hard. It's sort of a feel pitch for me, but I try and throw it hard because I don't want them to pick up the rotation on the ball. I just try to trust my grip and throw it as hard as I can," Brown said.

Brown soon showed the Tigers organization what he was capable of doing. Over his first six starts, Brown compiled a 5-0 record with a 2.21 ERA in 36 2/3 innings of work. After Toledo had starter Luke French called up to Detroit, Brown was selected to take French's place on the Mud Hens roster.

"Ultimately it does not matter where you are playing. It is still all the same game, regardless of what logo is on your chest. It's still me going out there and trying to get guys out and help my team win to the best of my abilities," Brown said.

The move to Toledo was the latest step in what has been a quick rise through the minor league system for Brown. Considering the fact that the Statesboro, GA native was just drafted in 2006, Brown has been on a torrid pace through the minor league system.

But problems have plagued Brown in during short career. One of those has been a lack of run support. Over his first 14 starts with the Mud Hens, he received just 2.69 runs per game in run support. To compare that with another pitcher, Zach Grienke, who has the lowest run support in the major leagues, gets 3.34 runs per outing from his team in Kansas City.

But this is not the first time Brown's record has suffered due to lack of support from his teammates. While playing for Double-A Mobile, Brown was named a Southern League All-Star team despite having a record of 6-15.

"Well I try not to worry about that stuff. I can only go out there and control what I can control. I just go out there with the mindset that I am going to give my team a chance to win. Unfortunately, I have not got a whole lot of run support, but I will. These guys are great hitters here in Toledo," Brown said.

The other knock on Brown has been his lack of control at times, and that has been evident as of late. Brown had allowed 28 runs in 50 2/3 innings of work over his last nine starts. Much like his boyhood idol, John Smoltz, was to be moved to the bullpen, Brown, too, was moved from the rotation to the bullpen to make room for Nate Robertson.

"Well Brooks has been really thrown into the fire here. He has been trying to learn on the job and trying to learn how to pitch at such a high level," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "The old saying is the more the iron is in the fire the harder and stronger it gets. We hope that is going to be the same for him."

Brown's only appearance since being moved to the bullpen was not that successful either. He worked four innings giving up three runs on six hits. More troubling was Brown's ball to strike ratio. He threw 85 pitches and only 42 were strikes.

"Well this is a humbling game. I mean I am learning up here everyday. If I were in Single-A just dealing every time out, I wouldn't be really learning a whole lot. When you get your rear end handed to you, it helps you refocus and that reminds you that you have some things to work on," Brown said.

But despite his struggles, the right hander continues to focus on getting better.

"I have had a pretty good year, but I am struggling right now. My command is not where I want it to be. The walks are up. I know you have to have good command to pitch in the big leagues. I have a few outings left. I just want to finish strong," Brown said.

It still remains to be seen as to where Brown fits in long term with the Tigers. He is, for the most part, still a relatively unknown commodity in the system.

"I welcome anything I can do to get better. Whether that means Fall or Winter ball, I am ready for any of it. I like this organization, and I want to do the best I can for them and my teammates," Brown said.

What more could the Tigers ask for?


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