MOOSIC, Pa. - The message, expected as it might have been, was still a shock to the system. Like jumping into an ice-cold swimming pool. Ruben Amaro Jr. and Charlie Manuel need to talk to you, Domonic Brown was told.
It happened Saturday morning. Late the previous evening, the Phillies made a huge trade, acquiring rightfielder Hunter Pence from the Astros. That was where Brown had been playing. So, yeah, he knew what was next. That didn't make it any easier.
Sure enough. The general manager and manager informed him he was being sent back to Triple A Lehigh Valley.
"I was really down," Brown said last night, sitting in the visitor's dugout at PNC Field before a doubleheader against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. "I felt like I was doing decent at least, enough to stay up there."
Disappointment is understandable. Instead of flying to Denver on a chartered jet and staying in a four-star hotel with the big-leaguers, Brown is in a Fairfield Inn and faces an 8-hour bus ride to Durham, N.C., after tonight's game. Reality sets in quickly in the minor leagues.
The mood didn't last long, though. He quickly pulled himself together. First he had make sure his family was all right. Then he had to get to Allentown for that night's game against Buffalo.
"His attitude's been great," said IronPigs manager Ryne Sandberg. "He's that kind of a kid. It's not surprising. He's here to play and get better and work. That would have been my message to him, which it was. And he was all on board."
He reached base three times that night on a hit and two walks. He had another hit and another walk Sunday, extending his Lehigh Valley hitting streak to 20 games, dating back to last year, a franchise record. He also made two superb defensive plays, impressive since it was just his second game in leftfield.
In the first game last night he went 2-for-3, walked yet again and raised his IronPigs batting average to .367 in 14 games.
One of the reasons he handled the situation so well is that he's a remarkably levelheaded 23-year-old. The other is that he can read between the lines. When he was told that the organization wanted him to move to leftfield, he instinctively understood what it meant: Raul Ibanez' contract is up at the end of the season. That's where an opportunity could exist.
"They still have high hopes for me," he said. "They told me that when I talked to Ruben and Charlie.
"That's a plus for me. When they said that, it really brought a smile to my face. They want me to play leftfield and get some at-bats down here every day. And there's nothing wrong with that.
"I was pretty sure that was going to happen anyway. So they go in, they get Pence, they make the team better and they send me down here. It's not good on my end, but I'm [still young] and I have a long career ahead of me. All I can do is keep playing and stay focused.
"They just told me to keep my head up and keep working. That they had big plans for me in the future and in the present as well. I took that for what it was and packed my bag, came right here and got to work."
Brown was hitting .246 with five homers and 19 RBI. Manuel talked a lot about how good he's going to be someday. But Pence is good right now and the Phillies are a team built to win this year. Brown gets it.
"That's why I'm mentally focused now on the positive end. I wasn't really doing what the team needed at that particular time," he said. "That's why they went out and got Hunter Pence. He's a great talent, man. So I've got to come down here, stay focused and understand what's going on up here as well."
The early returns on the switch to left are positive. He has taken some fly balls on that side during batting practice in the past year or so, but seeing the ball come off the bat in the opposite direction will still be an adjustment. "I'm willing to work," he said with quiet confidence.
Brown hopes he comes back when roster limits are expanded after Sept. 1, but said he has no promises. All the more reason not to pout, to just keep playing as well as possible, the only part of the equation he can control.