The dominoes now falling for Brown
Phillies outfielder cites confidence and opportunity for finally breaking through
LOS ANGELES -- Baserunning guru Davey Lopes was occupying the Phillies' first-base coaching box, where he now works for the Dodgers, when Domonic Brown was a promising athlete grouped with Giancarlo Stanton and Jason Heyward as the National League's future stars in right field.
All three were big, strong, swift and dedicated, seemingly without limits.
"They were the new generation of right fielders," Lopes said. "That's what the expectations were. It took Domonic a while to get acclimated."
The Marlins' Stanton and the Braves' Heyward hit the big time quicker and with more force, but Brown is busy catching up. The National League Player of the Month for May, Brown hit as many home runs -- 12 -- in the month as he had in 492 at-bats in parts of three seasons coming into 2013.
"This is the first year I've played on a daily basis," Brown said. "That's the big thing in terms of confidence. It's hard to feel confident when you're up and down."
Brown has been productive under pressure, entering Thursday hitting .282 with a .718 slugging percentage with two outs and runners in scoring position and .306 with a .531 slugging mark in late and close situations.
In a season of stops and starts, injuries and inconsistency across the board, Phillies faithful have had Cliff Lee's superlative pitching, Kyle Kendrick's solid work and Brown's emergence to applaud.
Brown came into a four-game series at Dodger Stadium running second in the National League in homers with 20 and sixth in RBIs with 54, hitting .276 with a .545 slugging percentage.
"He's probably one of the most dangerous hitters in the league now," Lopes said. "I'm happy for Domonic. He's a hard-working kid with a great attitude. He really wants to be good.
"The only negative about him was that his routes were questionable at times. He had a good arm, good speed. He had power with a long swing that he has shortened up considerably. He's not missing pitches when he's in his zone. Having success goes hand-in-hand with confidence."
Because he's long and lean at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds and brings a similar skill set to the field, Brown has heard comparisons with Darryl Strawberry since coming out of Redan High School in Stone Mountain, Ga., in 2006 as the Phillies' 20th round pick in the First-Year Player Draft.
"Dom has a chance to be a tremendous hitter," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, respected as one of the game's leading authorities on the art of hitting. "He's got a strong bottom hand that gets him to the ball good. The ball jumps off his bat.
"What he's done this year has come from hard work and a lot from confidence. He's got a tremendous work ethic, and he's in the right frame of mind. The times he got called up to the big leagues before, he wasn't healthy, and it was hard for him to stay in the lineup. Last winter he did a lot of work, and he carried that to a big spring."
A serious student of the game, Brown spends winters studying video of the game's elite left-handed hitters. He zeroed in on Ken Griffey Jr. as more of a model for his swing and approach than Strawberry.
"I don't use my hands the way Strawberry did," Brown said. "He had that high leg kick and quick hands. I use my body more. When you're my size, you do tend to have a long swing, and I've worked on being short and quick. Griffey was long through his swing but short and quick to the ball."
Like most power hitters, Brown gets locked in and goes deep in flurries.
He homered in two of the first three games in June and finished the month with a vengeance, launching six homers in the final five games of the month. This included two-homer games against the Red Sox at home and at Milwaukee.
"He has that happy zone down where lefties like it," Lopes said. "He's turning on it, elevating it and getting it over the fence."
Over the course of the month, Brown raised his slugging percentage from .372 to .549.
A cooling-down period followed his spree, resulting in a 14-game home run drought. Brown brought it to an end with a three-run blast against Jason Marquis at Petco Park on Tuesday night, lifting the Phillies to a 6-2 win with his four RBIs.
At 25, he's the youngest Phillies hitter to produce 20 or more homers before July.
"He was real patient against Marquis," Manuel said. "He had some really good at-bats against a guy who doesn't give in."
Brown has moved from right to left field this season with John Mayberry Jr. giving Manuel a pair of small forwards at the corners in his outfield around diminutive Ben Revere, a spectacular center fielder.
Brown, Manuel said, "has improved a lot in the outfield -- you might say 100 percent."
The only area where Brown hasn't produced is at the ballot box. He's running 14th among NL outfielders in the fan voting for the All-Star Game.
The City of Brotherly Love ought to show some for dominant Dom.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.