Remember last month when the possibility existed that the Philadelphia Phillies could use a double-platoon for their corner outfield spots, rather than naming a starter at each position heading into spring training?
Although the eventual signing of Delmon Young made it appear as if the Phillies had their candidate for an everyday right fielder, left field was still a mystery. And following news from Jim Salisbury on CSNPhilly.com that Young could not only miss Opening Day, but also much of April, it appeared as if both corner outfield spots were back up for grabs.
That is, unless Domonic Brown continues with his strong early showing.
The Phillies have only played four spring training games, but manager Charlie Manuel recently spoke on the outfield situation in an article by David Murphy on Philly.com, and made sure he mentioned Brown’s name when it came to which players could claim spots early.
We’ve got 10 outfielders, and somewhere along the line, probably about two-thirds of the way through spring training, we’re going to have to make decisions on at least four of them, Manuel said. We’re going to try to get them all some playing time where we can see them enough. If somebody jumps out and really gets going, like Brown right now, the last three days he’s really swung good. He’s played good in the outfield, things like that. We could settle on a guy or something.
Again, it’s still very early in camp. But another week of strong performances, similar to the one he had today, could allow Brown to see his name officially penciled into a starting corner outfield spot.
Brown hit his second home run in four spring training games against the New York Yankees today, and now has three hits in seven at-bats this spring.
Manuel is not the only member of the Phillies who has been encouraged by Brown so far. In another article by David Murphy on Philly.com, it is noted that both Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard believe in Brown’s ability this season, and may already think it’s time to give him an everyday starting job.
Brown may not have many opportunities left with the Phillies. In 147 career games over the last three seasons, Brown has a career average of .236 to go with 12 home runs and 58 RBI. However, his two home runs already this spring are nearly half his total from a year ago in the major leagues.
With Ben Revere already locked into the starting center field job and John Mayberry, Jr. and Laynce Nix serving as better options off the bench rather than starters, Brown and Darin Ruf give the Phillies two young players with the potential to win starting outfield jobs.
Once Young returns, both players could also be candidates for being sent down to the minor leagues depending on how they have performed up until that point.
Throw in Rule 5 draft pick Ender Inciarte, and the Phillies have an even more interesting situation in their outfield.
However, this situation could also mean that the team is hoping at least one player will step up early and earn a starting job, regardless of whether Young is on the roster.
Following his monster home run today, Brown has certainly gotten off to the type of start that the team was hoping for early.
If Brown is able to keep this fast start going, he could soon earn a starting job for Opening Day, something he has never received.
Since debuting in 2010, Brown has experienced two vastly different situations with the Phillies. In 2011, Brown had an opportunity to remain as the Phils' everyday right fielder, before a .165 batting average in June led to the Phillies acquiring Hunter Pence a month later. Last season, Brown was not called-up until Pence was traded to the San Francisco Giants in late July. Following his promotion, Brown batted .235 while playing in an outfield that looked much different after the trade deadline.
In 2011, Brown played on a Phillies team that was on pace to win a franchise record number of games, and win the National League East by 13 games. Last season he played on a Phillies team that finished 17 games back of first place.
Playing in these situations allowed Brown to play on a team with little pressure on it during the regular season due to a strong lead in the standings, and on a team that, except for a late season charge at the second wild card spot, was hardly in playoff contention. Two very different situations, yet two situations that were not as high pressured as some the Phillies have seen in recent seasons.
However, despite the lack of pressure, Brown was unable to earn and maintain an everyday starter’s job in the outfield.
This year, with an open competition for the corner outfield spots, Brown has a third chance to claim a starting outfield job.
Although the returns are still very early, it appears as if the third time might be the charm.
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