To Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., the promotion of outfielder Domonic Brown is a matter of "when" and not "if." Sometime this season, the Phils' top prospect will be in the majors, playing regularly, and given the chance to infuse his 23-year-old exuberance into an aging lineup.
That time is nearing. It is not here yet.
"We have to bring him at the right time for us," Amaro said Wednesday. "And we have to make sure it's the right time, so when he comes to the big leagues it's not a situation where we're questioning whether he should be in the big leagues or not."
Translation: When Brown is recalled, he will be here to stay. This is no trial like last season, when the prospect was pressed into duty with Shane Victorino out of the lineup. And the last thing the Phillies want to do is set up Brown for failure by promoting him and handing over a starting job before he actually is ready.
At the major-league level, there are winds of change. Ben Francisco (4 for his last 42) sat against a lefthander Wednesday, with John Mayberry Jr. in right field for his fourth consecutive start. The production has been no better in left field, with Raul Ibanez at .223 entering the homestand.
Brown has played 16 minor-league games (11 at triple-A Lehigh Valley) and is hitting .350 (21 for 60). He has an 18-game hitting streak at triple A dating from last season and had the winning hit in Wednesday's game for the IronPigs. Injuries have slowed his development since August.
He had played in only nine straight games for Lehigh Valley before a sprained right thumb cost him five days. Since returning from the injury, he has played two days in a row.
"When it's time for him to come to the big leagues, he has to be ready to be a big-league player in a lot of different facets of the game," Amaro said.
That includes his defensive play and route running, something drilled into the outfielder's head during his brief stint in spring training with third base coach and outfield instructor Juan Samuel.
In the meantime, manager Charlie Manuel is biding time by taking a closer look at Mayberry. The athletic outfielder stole three bases in his last three starts and made a few decent plays in the field.
"He's shown me enough he gets to play tonight," Manuel said before Wednesday's game.
Utley plays again
Chase Utley played a full nine innings again Wednesday for single-A Clearwater and was 1 for 4 with an RBI single and a strikeout. He has 36 at-bats in minor-league and extended-spring-training games.
Amaro said Utley will not return this weekend, but it's possible he will arrive before the homestand ends next Thursday.
"He still needs to get at-bats," Amaro said. "He's still getting his timing down."
Good news for Stutes
The plane ride home after Tuesday's loss to St. Louis was painful for Michael Stutes, who has a sore back. Stutes said he finally found a comfortable sleeping position only to discover the flight was almost over.
"Brutal," the 24-year-old righthander said.
But after work done Wednesday on his back by the Phillies' athletic training staff, Stutes played catch from 90 feet. He said he felt much better and expects to be ready in a few days. He was injured on the second of three pitches he threw in relief Tuesday.
"It was more a freak thing with one throw," Stutes said. "I should be able to get back here pretty soon."
Victorino will have an MRI exam of his right hamstring Thursday, the Phillies said after the 2-1 win. A team official said that the MRI was scheduled before the game and that Victorino's pinch-hit bunt in the eighth had nothing to do with the decision. Amaro said he expects Victorino to return in a few days, but that was before the MRI was announced. . . . Jose Contreras (right elbow) pitched in his first rehabilitation game with single-A Clearwater but could not finish the first inning. He pitched two-thirds of an inning, allowing three runs on four hits, and threw 21 pitches. His next rehab outing likely will be Saturday.