"It feels pretty good, I'm almost at 100 percent," Brown said after going 2-for-4 with a home run in his first Minor League rehab start this season, Class A Advanced Clearwater's 8-6 win over Lakeland. The Phillies outfielder is on the 15-day disabled list after having surgery on his right hand in early March to remove his hamate bone.
"It just feels good to get back out there getting into games. The Phillies thought it was time to progress a bit."
The Phils, who anticipated their top outfield prospect would compete for an Opening Day roster spot this Spring, thought Brown was healthy enough to move up from his Extended Spring workouts.
"We just want to get him to play. He hasn't played in a long time," GM Ruben Amaro told MLB.com on Tuesday. "He's starting to swing the bat better. He started very slowly at extended. [Tuesday], he hit two home runs and went 4-for-5 or something like that. He's progressed much faster over the last few days, so we think he's ready for Clearwater."
Brown, evidently, was ready. The 23-year-old hit a two-out homer in the fifth off Lakeland starter Victor Larez, a righty who has pitched at Class A since 2005.
The longball came after Brown, batting third, watched the previous batter, left fielder Brian Gump, clear the bases with a three-run drive.
"He threw a fastball on the outside to Gump, so I thought he was going to sneak a fastball in there," Brown said. "I'm just seeing and taking pitchers better."
How does the hand feel out in the field?
"Oh, yeah, it's totally 100 percent on defense," said Brown, who made his Major League debut on July 28, 2010, with the Phils. "A couple swing and misses at pitches away kind of bugged the hand a bit."
Brown grounded out in his first at-bat, lined a two-out single in the fourth, capped a go-ahead six-run rally in the fifth with his homer and grounded out to first in the seventh.
"That last at-bat, it was 2-0 and I swung at a pitch that was ball three," he said. "I'm pretty hard on myself, and I shoot for perfection."
At this point, it appears an early-May return to the Majors would be the best-case scenario for the outfielder who hit .327 with 20 homers, 67 RBIs and 17 steals between Triple-A Lehigh Valley and Double-A Reading last summer.
"I might be here five to seven days," Brown said. "That's where it stands right now. It's kind of up to the big guys up top."
Brown hit .210 with 13 RBIs in 35 Major League games last year but hopes to prove himself worthy again, once healthy.
"Whenever that may be that I get called up, when I get in there, I just try to do what I can do," he said. "I'm not trying to be a superstar, just trying to do whatever I can do. Just hit or play defense."