Brown close to sealing corner outfield job


TAMPA -- The Phillies named Cole Hamels their opening-day starter earlier this week and Charlie Manuel came tantalizingly close Saturday to saying Domonic Brown would man one of his corner outfield spots -- most likely left field -- in the April 1 opener against the Atlanta Braves.

"I would say right now, he's got the lead," the manager said following the Phillies' 7-0 exhibition win over the New York Yankees at Steinbrenner Field. "Kind of like Smarty Jones or something out front. Big Brown out front."

Brown, 25, has earned that distinction by having the best spring training of his career, which continued when he slammed a three-run home run off veteran righthander Hiroki Kuroda, giving the Phillies a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning. It was the fourth home run of the spring for Brown, who is hitting .365 with eight RBIs.

Perhaps more encouraging were a couple of defensive plays -- a diving catch in the sixth and a running catch in the gap in the seventh.

"He's getting real comfortable," Manuel said. "Also, he's getting comfortable with our team. Without a doubt, I think those are two big things. He'll come into his own."

Brown said he was more happy with the home run than the defensive plays because they put the Phillies in front.

"I'm just feeling confident, going out there and playing hard," he said. "I'm making sure I'm doing the little things. I'm going out, doing my early work and working my butt off. If you do that, the game should be easy for you."

Valdes impressive

With Cole Hamels pitching against Phillies minor-leaguers in Clearwater, lefthander Raul Valdes got the start against the Yankees and continued to make his case for a place in the bullpen. Valdes, 35, threw three scoreless innings, which was the same result he had in his previous appearance against Detroit.

Manuel said Valdes is competing for a spot as the Phillies' long man and specialty lefty in the bullpen.

"He pitched pretty good last year if you stop and think about it," the manager said.

Valdes, 35, had a 2.90 ERA in 35 appearances.

Righthander Mike Adams also continued his impressive spring with a perfect fourth inning that included a strikeout of Travis Hafner. He has pitched four scoreless this spring, allowing just two hits.

Hamels on opening day and Doc

After throwing five innings against minor-leaguers at the Carpenter Complex, Hamels was asked about the first opening-day assignment of his career.

"It really is (an honor)," he said. "A lot of great pitchers have had that honor and to be one of them is something I will cherish. To be able to get your team off to the right start sets the tone for the entire season. It's something I'll be able to remember for a really long time. I'm looking forward to the season."

The Phillies' 2013 ace was also asked about Roy Halladay, who will try to rebound from his rough outing Tuesday against Detroit when he pitches Sunday against Baltimore.

"If Doc's not Doc, OK, now he just went from immortal to still sort of immortal," Hamels said. "He's one of the best pitchers in baseball and he knows how to fight to the very last breath. He's not going to give up. He still has the best pitches. He has the best sort of game knowledge. He prepares himself to win and he's going to win."

Extra bases

Chad Durbin also pitched three scoreless innings, while Michael Stutes and Jake Diekman finished the game with scoreless innings. ... Non-roster invitee Jermaine Mitchell had a double and a triple and is hitting .467 this spring. Catcher Steven Lerud contributed a two-run home run in the ninth.