Brown sent down, but fu­ture re­mains bright

Cen­ter fielder swung hot bat in spring games

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports - BY AMANDA COMAK

VIERA, FLA. | As the Washington Na­tion­als’ were par­ing their spring train­ing ros­ter, pre­par­ing for their first round of cuts Mon­day, third base coach Bo Porter saw Corey Brown’s name on the list and put in a plea.

“Do we have to send him out?” Porter asked Na­tion­als man­ager Davey John­son. “Let’s keep him.”

Ul­ti­mately, they couldn’t. But it wasn’t be­cause Brown didn’t do enough in his brief stay to war­rant a longer look. The sec­ond part of the re­turn from the trade that sent Josh Willing­ham to Oak­land last off­sea­son, along with right-han­der Henry Ro­driguez, Brown earned so much re­spect dur­ing his time in camp that he may have played his way into a sig­nif­i­cant part of the Na­tion­als’ fu­ture.

“If he keeps do­ing the things I think he’s ca­pa­ble of do­ing right on into the sea­son, we don’t have to look for a cen­ter fielder,” John­son said Mon­day, of­fer­ing heady praise for a player at a po­si­tion the Na­tion­als have found dif­fi­cult to fill since they ar­rived in Washington.

Also sent out were 2011 draft picks An­thony Ren­don and Matt Purke, who were op­tioned to Sin­gleA Po­tomac, and in­fielder Car­los Rivero, who was op­tioned to Triple-a Syra­cuse. Out­fielder Xavier Paul (who has been ex­cused from camp to deal with a per­sonal is­sue), in­fielder Jar­rett Hoff­pauir, catcher Sandy Leon and right-han­ders Rafael Martin and Austin Bibens-dirkx were re­as­signed to mi­nor league camp.

But it was Brown who was com­mended most. As John­son was de­liv­er­ing the news to Brown, he watched as out­fielder Jayson Werth walked by, re­al­ized what was hap­pen­ing and expressed his own dis­ap­point­ment.

“That’s how much he im­pressed not only me and the staff, but his teammates,” John­son said.

Fill­ing the hole in cen­ter field was at the top of gen­eral man­ager Mike Rizzo’s off­sea­son to-do list, and it re­mains a weak spot. But if the or­ga­ni­za­tion feels Brown has a chance to quiet its per­pet­ual need, he’s head­ing to Triple-a for a very big year.

A high an­kle sprain suf­fered in the first week of spring train­ing in 2011 was the first in a sea­son filled with set­backs for Brown, who hit .283 with a .370 on­base per­cent­age and .466 slug­ging in 131 mi­nor league games be­tween Dou­ble-a and Triple-a for the A’s or­ga­ni­za­tion in 2010. But he started slow last year in Syra­cuse, hit­ting .206 un­til a tor­rid Au­gust helped boost his final num­bers to .235/.326/.402 and earn him a Septem­ber call-up. Brown had three at­bats in the big leagues be­fore he went down with a staph in­fec­tion in his right knee.

The in­fec­tion, which ul­ti­mately re­quired surgery, was sup­posed to clear quickly and not hin­der the out­fielder’s off­sea­son prepa­ra­tion. It took time, though, be­fore Brown ul­ti­mately was di­ag­nosed with Methi­cillin-re­sis­tant Sta­phy­lo­coc­cus au­reus (MRSA) and feared a sec­ond pro­ce­dure. An­tibi­otics even­tu­ally cleansed his body of the in­fec­tion and with strong out­field play and an ex­cep­tional spring at the plate, he ac­com­plished his main goal com­ing into this sea­son: to prove he was worth it.

Brown made two high­light-reel catches in his final week­end with the team, in­clud­ing one against Detroit on Satur­day and an­other on a sink­ing Matt Hol­l­i­day liner into left cen­ter field Mon­day af­ter­noon against St. Louis. He also hit .412 with a .412 on­base per­cent­age and a .647 slug­ging per­cent­age — in­clud­ing a home run off Tigers closer Jose Valverde.

“It feels great to know that that’s how [John­son] feels about me and what they all think I can do,” Brown said. “I’m just go­ing to try to build off this. I’ll go down to Syra­cuse, keep play­ing hard and stay healthy and get back up here as soon as pos­si­ble.”

NOTES: Third base­man Ryan Zim­mer­man con­tin­ued his hot hit­ting with a 2-for-3 day against the Car­di­nals, in­clud­ing a dou­ble and a home run. Zim­mer­man is 7-for-12 with five ex­tra-base hits, in­clud­ing two home runs.

Out­fielder Michael Morse served as the team’s des­ig­nated hit­ter Mon­day, play­ing in his first game in a week af­ter deal­ing with a right lat strain. Morse, who was 1-for-2 with a dou­ble, still has not re­sumed throw­ing.

Rookie out­fielder Bryce Harper tested his tight left calf with run­ning Sun­day and was hopeful he could re­turn to the lineup Tues­day.

Corey Brown

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