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Phillies Notebook: Phillies' Brown focused on improving over 2010 season

CLEARWATER, Fla. - It might have been a message to others, or a reminder to himself. Or maybe Domonic Brown just decided to cut the sleeves off a freebie from Nike to create some cheap workout wear. Whatever the case, the big, block lettering on the front of the white T-shirt spoke volumes:

CLEARWATER, Fla. - It might have been a message to others, or a reminder to himself. Or maybe Domonic Brown just decided to cut the sleeves off a freebie from Nike to create some cheap workout wear. Whatever the case, the big, block lettering on the front of the white T-shirt spoke volumes:

Your Time Will Come.

Whether Brown's time will come this season is a matter that will be decided over the next month-and-a-half as the rookie outfielder attempts to use a bulked-up body and revamped swing to win a spot on the Phillies' Opening Day roster. Talk to anybody in the organization and the hope is that the kid will make the decision easy. That hope is mixed with a considerable level of belief, both in Brown's readiness for the big leagues and in the Phillies' need to have him in their lineup.

The decision largely depends on Brown's performance this spring. That's the way he has approached it since making a highly publicized exit from his winter league team in the Dominican Republic, where he became frustrated with his performance after going 2-for-29 in 3 weeks of play. Both the Phillies and Brown's agent said the 23-year-old prospect was suffering from fatigue after a season in which he rose from big-league spring training to Double A and Triple A before a July call-up to the major leagues. But Brown refuses to use that as a viable excuse.

"I went down there and played bad," he said. "A lot of those guys down there played a whole season, too."

Brown immediately moved to Clearwater, where he focused on packing muscle onto his long frame and rediscovering the swing that helped him tear through last spring training. He and Phillies hitting coach Greg Gross decided to lower the elevation of his hands during his setup, which, by the end, of the 2010 season was much higher than normal. Brown also added about 10 pounds of muscle that yesterday were clearly evident in his swollen arms.

The results, at least in batting practice, have left onlookers raving.

"I feel great," said Brown, who hit .210 with a .612 on-base plus slugging percentage in 62 at-bats for the Phillies last season. "It feels very comfortable."

The true test will come when the Phillies begin serious evaluation of their rightfield situation. The goal, manager Charlie Manuel said yesterday, is to get Brown and his fellow competitors as many at-bats as possible during Grapefruit League play.

Ben Francisco, who played regularly for the Indians in 2008 and 2009 before joining the Phillies' bench, will rotate among all three outfield positions. John Mayberry Jr., who has spent most of the last two seasons at Triple A Lehigh Valley, will get some extra at-bats at first base. Brown will stick to rightfield, his natural position, but will get at-bats in minor league games on days when he is not in the Grapefruit League lineup. Manuel, who usually tries to get his players 60 to 70 at-bats during the spring, said Brown could end up seeing between 90 and 100.

"He's going to get a chance to play," Manuel said. "We're going to get a real good look at him."

Manuel sounds convinced he can utilize Brown at the major league level, even if he does not start the season as an everyday player.

"If he gets 350 at-bats or 400, that's almost a complete minor league season," Manuel said. "I think the first year would be kind of a break-in year. I think that would be my plans for him."

Brown is determined to make it a reality.

"Like I say all the time, I set big goals and high expectations for myself," he said. "We'll see what happens. I'm going to take it in. If I start in rightfield, if I start in Triple A, I'm going to be ready."

Bastardo behind

Lefthanded pitcher Antonio Bastardo, one of the leading candidates to fill the one or two vacancies the Phillies have in the bullpen, did not throw with his scheduled group yesterday. He is behind the rest of the pitchers, because of elbow inflammation from playing winter ball that prompted the Phillies to shut him down. Pitching coach Rich Dubee said the lefty would throw his first bullpen session tomorrow.

Phillers

Charlie Manuel said utility infielder Wilson Valdez, who played a key role in filling in for injured shortstop Jimmy Rollins last season, will likely see some time in the outfield this spring. The Phillies think he could provide depth there, including in centerfield . . . Rich Dubee said righthander David Herndon, a Rule 5 pick who pitched out of the bullpen last season, will compete for a job as a long man . . . The Phillies claimed righthander Brian Schlitter from the Yankees and designated righthander Andrew Carpenter for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. The 25-year-old Schlitter appeared in seven games for the Cubs last season, allowing 11 earned runs with seven strikeouts and five walks in eight innings.