NEW YORK - From the moment Domonic Brown arrived in Clearwater for his first big-league spring training a year-and-a-half ago, veterans in the Phillies' clubhouse have spoken appreciatively of the young outfielder's eagerness to absorb the intricacies of life at baseball's highest level. In the minors, athletic talent is the ultimate accelerant, the undisputed impetus for a top prospect's rise. In the majors, though, survival hinges on nuance, on the subtle behaviors that slow the game down to a manageable speed.
Late last season, watching from the bench as a veteran outfield took charge, Brown would struggle to shake off the rust for his rare moments of opportunity. He struck out nine times in 16 pinch-hit at-bats, unleashing swings that looked and felt foreign. But he never stopped learning. And last night, in the late innings of a hectic game at Citi Field, those lessons paid off.
"I was just focused on what I had to do," Brown said, recounting the events that led last night to a 6-4 win over the National League East rival Mets. "Last year, I was focused, but I was still too high up. I come to the plate now, and I'm the same guy in the first inning or whenever. So when they put me in, I know what to expect. That is what was so good about having me up last year that I didn't understand."
Trailing by a run in the eighth, manager Charlie Manuel called on his rookie rightfielder to pinch-hit for rooklie pitcher Mike Stutes. The previous inning, the Mets had taken a 3-2 lead against the rookie reliever. Jose Reyes led off with a double, moved to third on an errant pickoff throw, then scored on a single by Justin Turner. It was the latest turn in a hectic game that featured 25 hits and five errors, including a botched pop fly by Chase Utley that led to one of the two runs allowed in Roy Oswalt's six innings.
After Oswalt left the game, Brown took a few swings off a tee in the batting cage behind the dugout and prepared himself for action. In the eighth, he got the call, stepping into the batter's box against veteran righthander Jason Isringhausen. He took a fastball for a ball, then another for a strike, then another for a ball. Finally, he saw a pitch he liked and knocked a fastball up the middle for a leadoff single.
As Isringhausen went to work against Rollins, Brown listened to first-base coach Sam Perlozzo tell him the pitcher's time to the plate. They gave him the green light to go, and go he did, swiping second to move into scoring position. Moments later, Rollins made contact with a curveball and sent it into rightfield for a double. Brown coasted into home with the tying run.
"That's something that he's not accustomed to, but he had some time doing it last year," said Rollins, who finished with three RBI. "A little experience, and I've been talking to him about the mental side, and he's like a sponge. He takes it all in. And the rest is up to him."
His next opportunity arrived quickly. After Carlos Ruiz and pinch-hitter Ross Gload connected on one-out singles in the ninth, Brown strode to the plate with the go-ahead run in scoring position. This time, his pitch came early. Brown made contact with a 90-mph fastball, knocking it underneath the glove of Mets first baseman Daniel Murphy. The run was followed by two more.
Ryan Madson allowed one back in the bottom of the ninth, but, with the tying run on first, recorded a doubleplay for his 10th consecutive save.
The Phillies improved to 32-19. Brown, who went 3-for-16 as a pinch-hitter last season, improved to 2-for-3 this year. And the learning process continues. *
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at www.philly.com/HighCheese. Follow him on Twitter at