He's enjoying his time in Vancouver, but Eric Brown has never been more ready to move up through the Blue Jays system.
It's not a matter of gratitude -- the 24-year-old right-hander has loved being a Vancouver Canadian and credits much of his current success to the tireless efforts of pitching coach Jim Czajkowski and manager Clayton McCullough. But after spending the majority of the past two seasons there, and enduring a whole lot of growing pains, Brown and his coaches agree: It's getting to be time to move on.
"I love it, having him here, but I wish he would move on and go to the next level," Czajkowski said. "He's ready."
Brown, a native of Ontario, has flourished so far this season as a starter. In 23 2/3 innings with the Canadians, he's compiled a 0.76 ERA, allowing only two earned runs while striking out 16. He is 3-0, has walked only six batters and is holding his opponents to a paltry .169 batting average.
His road to early-season success, though, was not a short one. Brown was drafted by the Blue Jays in 2011, out of the University of British Columbia, and succeeded early in his career as a relief pitcher. A successful rookie campaign earned him a promotion to Lansing last season, where he attempted to break in as a starter.
That's where he hit a few bumps in the road.
"It was a bit of a tough transition for me, just getting used to the five-day rotation," Brown said. "I didn't really adapt to that as well as I would have liked to."
He quickly found himself back with Vancouver, working to regain his form out of the bullpen. Brown started mixing in his changeup with his fastball and slider more frequently, and slowly the success started to show again, frustrating hitters and impressing his coaches. Having never had a problem getting ahead of hitters in the count, his focus primarily turned to making one last, good pitch to get the out.
"[Brown's] stuff was still good. It just seemed like every time he had a chance to put a hitter away, he would leave a ball over the middle of the plate," Czajkowski said. "The difference as a starter this year is that when he gets ahead with two strikes, he's just putting him away. The pitch is out of the zone, much more so than last year."
The 2013 season has been a much different story. The young righty, who has already won two Northwest League championships with the Canadians, has stormed out of the gate and has no plans of looking back. He's chasing the same ultimate goal as every other player out there, but it has been his commitment and persistence that gives him a chance to someday play in the Rogers Centre.
"I'm just mixing the changeup in more, sinking the ball and being aggressive as always," he said. "Obviously you want to move up, but it's just part of the process. I just take it in stride and keep working hard, and if I keep working hard, I know it's going to pay off."
Of course, his two championship rings with the Canadians hasn't hurt, either.
"That's not a bad thing, either. I don't mind," Brown joked. "Experience definitely helps confidence, more than anything."
As for moving up, Brown knows it's out of his control, and he's just trying to keep doing the little things right. As his career has already shown, a little bit of patience can certainly go a long way.
"It's been the experience of a lifetime," Brown said. "It's been a dream of mine growing up in Ontario. I've been a Blue Jays fan since I was old enough to walk."
Welcome, newbies: Diamondbacks 2013 first-round pick Braden Shipley struck out two over two innings in his professional debut with the Hillsboro Hops on July 2. The Rangers' third-round pick, Spokane's David Ledbetter, struck out six hitters in his first professional victory July 3.
Who's hot, Who's not: Boise left fielder Yasiel Balaguert has nine RBIs and three home runs in his last 10 games. … Salem-Keizer right-handed pitcher Chris Johnson has not allowed an earned run in his last 12 innings, striking out 13 over that span. … Everett outfielder Austin Wilson has just five hits in his last 39 at bats. … Spokane righty Collin Wiles has allowed 16 hits and seven earned runs in his last nine innings of work.
He said it: "It's kind of been our Achilles' heel, the offense. … We're constantly trying to do whatever we can to get more runs. It's a work in progress." -- Eugene Emeralds manager Jim Gabella to the Eugene Register-Guard after a July 3 loss to Hillsboro.
Vote for your All-Star: Fans can vote for their favorite players to participate in this year's All-Star Game in Everett on Aug. 6. Voting opened July 1, and fans can submit their choice through Monday, July 22.