CLEARWATER, Fla. - For the first time in 12 days, Domonic Brown stepped into the batter's box yesterday afternoon. Brown got four at-bats in a minor league game against the New York Yankees Class A team at the Carpenter Complex.
He went 0-for-4, flying out twice.
"I tracked the ball well," Brown said. "I'm seeing the ball well, feeling good, taking some good swings - which is great, especially missing 2 weeks of playing anything. I was surprised I made contact."
With Brown's bat out of action for nearly 2 weeks, and his left Achilles' still not 100 percent right, the Phillies made the decision to place the outfielder on the disabled list before Monday's season opener.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. announced the upcoming roster move yesterday morning.
"It's the right thing to do physically and also with regard to his preparedness," Amaro said. "We want to make sure he's playing well and getting his legs underneath him and swinging the bat, doing the things he needs to do to get ready for the season to help us in Philadelphia."
Amaro did not reveal a possible timetable for Brown's return.
The roster move will be backdated to March 27, meaning Brown's 15-day stint will expire during the first week of the regular season, and Brown could return as early as April 11. But the Phillies clearly want to give Brown ample time to get his bat going while also not rushing him back into regular work.
Brown won't play in any of the four exhibition games (two in Clearwater, two in Philadelphia) the Phillies have remaining this week.
"One reason I don't want him to play in major league games is in a natural order of being an athlete is to push yourself and we don't want him to restrain anything," Amaro said. "We're going to keep him in minor league games for a while. It's going to be a day-to-day thing as to how much he can progress whether it's time for him to go out in the outfield to play, whether it's time for him to get at-bats . . . At some point we'll get him on a rehab schedule. That remains to be seen. We'll work on it day to day."
Despite coming off a poor 2014, the Phillies are counting on Brown to be their regular rightfielder this season, and possibly as a building block for the next contending team.
Brown, 27, is 2 years removed from an All-Star season when he hit hit .272 with an .818 OPS and 27 home runs. Only three National League players hit more home runs in 2013.
But Brown struggled mightily throughout the 2014 season, hitting .235 with a .634 OPS and 10 home runs in 144 games. Among 146 qualifying big-league players, Brown's .349 slugging percentage ranked 133rd last season.
Brown, however, was in line to be the only power bat in the Phillies regular outfield. Manager Ryne Sandberg plans to play Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera in centerfield, with former centerfielder Ben Revere shifting over to left.
Revere hit the first two (and only) home runs of his 5-year big-league career last season. Herrera, who hit his first spring home run yesterday, hit 13 home runs in six minor league seasons (2,597 plate appearances) while with the Texas Rangers organization.
With a grand total of 12 major league home runs from the Brown-Herrera-Revere trio last season, the Phillies could put together one of the least powerful offensive outfields in recent history. In the last 100 years, the fewest home runs from an outfield in any non-strike shortened season is 17, from the Chicago White Sox in 1976 and the Cincinnati Reds in 1954.
"We knew we weren't going to have any [power]," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said on Monday. "We didn't expect to have any power in our outfield. Or our infield. We didn't have any expectations that we'd have power. We're going to have to try to create runs with our legs and with decent at-bats. That's how we're going to have to do it."
It's probably too late for the Phillies to change course and find any outfield power. But they do need to find a starting rightfielder for Monday's opener with Brown down.
Among the candidates: Grady Sizemore, Jordan Danks, and non-roster players Jeff Francoeur, Brian Bogusevic and Russ Canzler. Danks is the best defender of the bunch, while the injury-riddled Sizemore, who hasn't played regularly since 2008, is the most accomplished hitter.
Sizemore got his first start in rightfield this spring yesterday and made the most of it, going 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored.
"He swung the bat well, he responded," Sandberg said of Sizemore, who was hitting .147 with no extra-base hits in 14 games before yesterday. "[I'm] looking at the different options that we could have and making sure I cover all the bases with guys getting some looks out there."
Darin Ruf, one of the few righthanded options (Francoeur is the other) for the Phillies bench, isn't a candidate. At least "not as we speak," Sandberg said after yesterday's game, a 10-6 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
On Monday, Amaro said Ruf, a natural first baseman who also plays leftfield, was "not really a natural outfielder."
Odubel Herrera, the Phillies Opening Day centerfielder, has played in the outfield in just 13 of his 610 minor league games entering 2015.