CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Domonic Brown isn't ready.
The Phillies optioned him to Minor League camp Friday morning. He had trouble getting on the field this month because of a sprained right thumb and a stiff neck, which limited him to just seven Grapefruit League games. Brown hit .300 (6-for-20) with two triples, one home run, two RBIs, one walk and a .983 OPS, but showed he needed more work in left field, which has been a struggle.
"He's got some work to do there," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We're not in the mode right now to develop guys at the Major League level, and he's a guy that needs to get to the point where we're comfortable with him in all phases of the game and then get him back to Philadelphia when he's ready to do that."
Brown, although not surprised, was clearly disappointed.
"Life goes on," he said. "I'm going to go down there and play hard. And that's it. I was not expecting it but keeping it in the back of my mind. We've got a lot of big-name free-agent guys. John Mayberry is playing well. They just told me they want to see me out there every day, so Triple-A is the best spot for it. I've been through a lot these last couple years, a lot more than some veteran guys, so I think I can deal with it. I think I can handle it. Go down there and play hard and that's all I can do."
The Phillies said in the offseason they planned to have Brown start the season in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he can work on his offense and defense. The Phillies believe they have enough options in left field to open the season, even with Mayberry expected to play some first base while Ryan Howard is out. Laynce Nix and Juan Pierre, who is the favorite to be the team's fifth outfielder, can play left field when Mayberry is at first.
Asked if playing in Triple-A will at least give him a clear mind, Brown said, "No, I wanted to be here, man. That's the goal, but things happen."
If Brown continues to hit, which always has been his strength, and improves enough to be a capable left fielder, he could rejoin the team at some point this season.
"He's still a work in progress," Amaro said. "He's not a ready-made Major League player yet. If he was, he'd be here."