The thick silence of embarrassing defeat was still present in the bowels of Citizens Bank Park when Ruben Amaro Jr. and Charlie Manuel sat together in the manager's office and hashed out the immediate future of their underperforming baseball team. The night had produced not just a 7-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies, but a realization that center fielder Shane Victorino would need a stint on the disabled list to recover from a hamstring strain. Together, the two men huddled, talking out the various personnel moves that could help to fill the void in their outfield.
When the subject turned to Domonic Brown, Amaro was hesitant. A short time before, he had told the media that the Phillies' top prospect was not likely to get the call, and at the time, the general manager believed what he said. Brown had played in just 11 games, and although he had played well, Amaro's perfect world had the outfielder compiling a healthy base of at-bats in the minors before a promotion to the majors. But as he talked with Manuel, he began to realize that he might have to sacrifice perfection for practicality. They talked about how Brown was likely to be used, how many at-bats he would see on a regular basis, what type of success they thought he could have.
By the end of it -- "It didn't take long," Manuel said -- Amaro reached a conclusion that for better or for worse will have enormous ramifications on the rest of the Phillies season.
It was time to call the kid up.
"I changed my mind," Amaro said Friday afternoon as he spoke with reporters in the Phillies dugout prior to that night's game against the Rangers. "It's pretty simple, really."
Yesterday morning, the Phillies called Brown in Allentown and told him to pack his bags. The rookie outfielder arrived at Citizens Bank Park yesterday afternoon, more than ready to tackle his second shot at becoming a major league player. His last opportunity was not much of an opportunity at all. When the Phillies called him up last July 28, he was more-or-less a short term replacement. Victorino was on the disabled list with an oblique strain that was not expected to sideline him for much longer than 15 days. Brown's natural position at right field was occupied by Jayson Werth, who was in the midst of a standout season that would eventually land him a monster contract with the Washington Nationals. In left field, Raul Ibanez was just starting to break out of a three-month funk.
Brown went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI in his big league debut, and started eight of the next 12 games. But after Victorino returned, he slid into a bench role, starting just four more games while going 4-for-24 with a double, home run, four walks and 11 strikeouts in 28 plate appearances.
This time around, however, Brown arrived in Philadelphia with a much better shot at establishing himself in a permanent role. Opening Day right fielder Ben Francisco was hitting just .216 with a .325 on base percentage and .668 OPS in 158 plate appearances. Ibanez was hitting .233 with a .287 OBP and .636 OPS in 157 plate appearances. He was not in the line-up Friday night against Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson, but is expected to be there on Saturday against righthander Colby Lewis. Manuel said his plan is to ease Brown into action, starting him against righthanders in order to help him find a groove. You can expect to see John Mayberry Jr. and Francisco against righties, although Mayberry has clearly moved past Francisco on the depth chart. He started for the fifth time in six days Friday night, carrying a .250 average, .354 OBP and .765 OPS into the game.
Brown will play against lefties, Manuel said, just not right away.
"First of all, he hasn't had much spring training, and he's just starting to get back into the swing of things, back playing again," Manuel said. "I think at the major league level, starting out, it will be a good way to kind of break him in."
Brown's long-term future has always seemed to be more important to the Phillies than the short-term upside of a promotion. On several occasions over the past two weeks, Amaro has told reporters that he does not feel Brown is ready for an everyday job. Yesterday, he admitted that he still harbors some of those doubts. But, he continued, such thoughts are present whenever a highly-regarded prospect breaks into the big leagues. The more he talked with Manuel on Thursday night, the more he realized that the benefits out-weighed the risks. The Phillies had scored fewer than three runs in their last five games. In losing five of six to the Braves, Cardinals and Rockies -- their toughest stretch of the schedule thus far -- they had managed just 28 hits and 10 runs. The offense needed help, and the only potential spark with Victorino on the disabled list was Brown.
"Is it the right thing to do? I'm not sure," Amaro said. "But it's the right thing to do for this club right now."
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