CLEARWATER, Fla. — Domonic Brown lives here now. He wanted a winter away from baseball to regain his confidence, but Brown still found himself at the Phillies' complex often.
He worked with Steve Henderson, the Phillies' minor-league outfield instructor. He struck a relationship with Gary Sheffield, who played 22 seasons and hit 509 home runs. He shaved most of his head and now proudly sports a faux-hawk.
Brown is 24. He was untouchable in trades for Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. His path to the majors as the franchise's top prospect was not as planned.
There is still plenty of time.
"I'm not at peace if I start at triple A," Brown said Tuesday morning. "I'm coming to win a job. I'm fighting to win a job here. If I start at triple A, I start at triple A."
A winter of anonymity has resulted in a restoration of that confidence so tested in 2011. Brown endured a hitless spring until he fractured the hamate bone in his right hand. He was promoted, demoted and then booed in triple A when he dropped fly balls and looked generally disinterested.
"I had to wake up," Brown said. "You just can't turn the switch off an on like that. You just can't do it in this game. You have to stay upbeat every day."
Brown is a definitive long shot to make the Phillies out of camp, but if he blows the decision-makers away, they will have to at least think about him.
"Spring is a good time to dream a little bit," Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "It's important for Domonic to show us what he's got."
Brown is thinking the same way. He heard Amaro's statements all winter that Brown would be best served spending another season at triple A.
That's nothing new, he said.
"I've been hearing that stuff for two or three years now," Brown said. "It don't really matter. I believe if you play hard and do things the right way, great things are going to happen for you. If you think great, you're going to be great. We'll see what happens."
So Brown sought others to help him regain his path. Sheffield, one of the finest hitters in the steroid era, was one. They met this winter at Sheffield's hitting facility in the Tampa, Fla., area. They've talked a lot of hitting.
"He opened his arms to me," Brown said. "We've been close ever since."
Hunter Pence was a workout partner recently in Clearwater. Jason Heyward, a friend of Brown's, experienced failure in his second major-league season with the Braves. They talked, too.
What was the consensus?
"There's going to be struggles, man," Brown said. "It's how you deal with it."
The Phillies are eagerly awaiting to see how Brown deals with it.
Have a question? Send it to Matt Gelb's Mailbag.