FORT MYERS, Fla. — Wally Joyner stuck out his left fist for a bump Wednesday as Domonic Brown dashed past the batting cage. When Brown poked one the opposite way a few minutes later, Joyner nodded his head and said, "Atta boy." In between batting practice rounds, Joyner mimicked a swing to make a point while Brown watched.
A day earlier, Brown credited his hot spring start to Joyner, the Phillies' new assistant hitting coach. "It seemed like God maybe sent an angel down toward me," Brown said, citing the strong connection the two made.
When relayed those words Wednesday, Joyner smiled.
"He said that?"
Joyner parlayed his sweet lefthanded swing into a 16-year major-league career. And, just maybe, he is the one who can finally unlock Brown's potential.
Brown, who lives in the Clearwater area, trained most of the winter at the Phillies complex. So he was one of the first hitters Joyner met upon his arrival in early February. Both, coincidentally, attended Redan (Ga.) High School. Brown was unaware. Joyner struck up a conversation.
"I came in early and we started talking," Joyner said. "I just asked him to try a couple of things and he locked it right in."
The changes were to Brown's hands, specifically, how he gripped the bat. At times, Brown would wrap his hands and wrists around the bat.
Brown's approach has never been an issue; his major-league walk rate is 10.4 percent, which is above the average of 8.2 percent. It's the power stroke that Brown has lacked in the majors.
Joyner believes the recent tweaks could help.
"We straightened his hands out a little bit, allowing his wrists to cock," Joyner said. "He's a big boy. He looks great. We want to take advantage of that size and leverage. That's one of the assets that Ryan Howard has. And he uses it. He has a lot of leverage. He stays behind it."
Joyner said he is careful not to overcoach. It is early in spring. Brown has had plenty of voices in his head before, and previous adjustments derailed him.
The results are encouraging so far. With confidence at the plate, Brown's entire game has benefitted.
On Wednesday, Brown lashed a ball off the base of the centerfield wall, just missing his third home run in four days. He settled for a run-scoring double. Brown scored three runs.
He drew a four-pitch walk in the first inning and went from first to third on a Howard single to right. In the third inning, Brown scored from second on a Carlos Ruiz flyball single to left.
"He's buying into it," Joyner said.
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