By Justin Adkins:
Star Phillies prospect Domonic Brown is currently recovering from surgery on his broken hand.
But right before the hand was broken, Brown made the decision to abandon efforts to lower his hands in his batting stance, a change suggested by Phillies hitting coach Greg Gross earlier this spring.
We previously described Gross’ apparent expertise with the obvious, as it seemed encouraging Brown to tell his hands to stop trying to run away from the plate was a blatant opportunity for improvement, but Brown doesn’t seem to think a new approach is needed at this point.
“I just said forget it . . . I’m going to go back to what got me here,” Brown said, per philly.com. “I got my hands back up and I was feeling comfortable.”
Of course, the results were mixed — he almost immediately broke his hand fouling off a pitch, but followed that up by toughing out the at bat, resulting in his first spring hit.
So now, with a hook of the hamate bone-less hand encased in a cast up to his elbow, Brown will look forward to the coming rehabilitation process and hoped-for return to the lineup.
“All I can do is go in and focus on my rehab and make sure I’m healthy and strong and take it from there,” Brown said. “Whatever else happens happens. They’re saying it’s going to be three to six weeks.”
The cast should be off in around 10 days, and that’s when Brown can get back to working on his new/old swing.
“That’s the key for me,” Brown said. “The other thing did not work with the hands down. That’s going to take time and I don’t really have time like that to spare, especially coming from winter ball. I don’t have enough time to prepare myself with the lower-hand angle.”
Of course, the high hands weren’t exactly doing him a lot of good recently. At the end of last season, he failed to generate much production, following that up with a disastrous run in the Dominican Winter League where he went 2-29 and was sent home, only to come into spring training in the same funk. And while the new approach didn’t seem to make much difference — Brown was a spring 0-fer up until that hand-breaking at bat — it would seem the advantages are clear, as lower hands will get him into the proper swing zone much more efficiently.
Ultimately, whatever makes Brown feel the most comfortable is the direction he needs to go in. While having his hands raised creates unnecessary pre-swing movement, it’s a timing mechanism that has served him well so far in his career — he didn’t become the #4 prospect in baseball by accident. Of course that was before he got a taste of the major leagues, and it’s possible that what worked in the minors won’t get him by in the show — an unfortunate reality for many a prospect, as the Phillies have seen many, many times — but for right now, Brown needs to find a comfort zone and get in a groove, both with his mental approach as well as his fundamentals.
As for Gross, he’s supportive of Brown’s reversion.
“[Gross] just said, ‘Whatever feels comfortable, whatever got you here’ ” Brown said. “We went from there. As soon as I took the first swing, I knew I was back right and that’s why I didn’t get out of the game right away because I thought maybe I could shake it off. I was trying to shake it off, but I knew it was something there in the hamate bone.”
In the meantime, the Phillies will likely turn to Ben Francisco as the starting right fielder. The 29 year-old career reserve has played well so far this spring, hitting .345 with a couple homers and a fantastic .OPS of 1.111. He’s no Jayson Werth, but if he can put up moderately respectable numbers, the Phillies offense should be plenty good enough to support the Four Horsemen.
Then again, Chase Utley’s knee trouble continues to lurk like a dark cloud in an otherwise gorgeous Florida sky. If the knee continues to be an issue into the season, the Phillies will need all the help they can get, including from their prized prospect.
Looking forward, it’s likely Brown will start the year on a rehab assignment in Triple-A.
“That’s not a problem,” Brown said. “If I have to go to Triple-A, I’ll go to Triple-A. I’m only 23 years old.”
Coming off an injury, tinkering with his swing, and expected to be part of a lineup potentially without an MVP-caliber three-hole hitter, Brown is going to need to grow up fast.
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