IL notes: Brown turning things around

Nats farmhand seeing the ball better, producing at the plate

By John Wagner / Special to | May 28, 2012 6:00 AM ET

If baseball is a game of numbers, the numbers weren't kind to Syracuse outfielder Corey Brown in 2011.

Brown, who came to Washington in the 2010 trade for Josh Willingham, hit .235 in 124 games with the Chiefs last season. He hit 14 homers but totaled only 39 RBIs.

And the most glaring number was 134 strikeouts compared to only 47 walks.

"It wasn't just last year, my strikeouts have been too high my entire career," Brown admitted. "Last year was a tough year for me from the get-go.

"I put a little pressure on myself because of the trade and because I was on the 40-man [roster]. As the season went on, the pressure seemed to magnify. At the end of July, I went back to some things I had used to have some success. But overall, it was a struggling season."

Even the good things that happened late in the summer carried an asterisk. He was promoted to Washington in September but had only three at-bats before he was sidelined with a knee infection.

At season's end, Brown was taken off the Nationals' 40-man roster.

"My family didn't understand because they had seen me have success in high school and college and the Draft," he said. "To me, it really wasn't a surprise.

"I wasn't upset with the organization at all. I didn't have a great season, the type of season I wanted at all. So my focus was on getting healthy and showing this organization what I can really do."

In 2012, everything seems to have turned around for Brown. He enters this week ranked 10th in the IL with a .297 batting average and stands third with 12 home runs after a five-homers-in-five-days burst last week.

Syracuse manager Tony Beasley said Brown's statistics, as well as his play, have caught the eye of the Nationals' front office.

"Defensively, Corey has been very solid," Beasley said. "Offensively, he has been very consistent, with quality at-bats game in and game out. He has hit a lot of balls hard, he has worked counts."

Most impressive is that Brown has dramatically cut down on his strikeouts. He has fanned 41 times in 185 at-bats while drawing 31 walks, an improvement he said has come because of specialized eye training he began before the season.

"I think it has helped me see the ball better," Brown said. "I'm not swinging at as many balls in the dirt, and that puts me in better hitter's counts. It has helped produce more walks."

There also is one other big number that Brown hopes to post: So far, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Tampa native has played in all but one of Syracuse's first 49 games.

"Last year, he was injured and he didn't play consistently," Beasley said. "I think it would be a big statement if he posted up big numbers [of games played]. I'm pushing him, challenging him, on that front."

Of course, it's hard to take Brown out of the lineup when his numbers are what they are.

"It is, but you can still give a guy a rest," Beasley said. "I'm pushing him a little bit that way. I want him to play [a lot].

"When you look at his numbers, I want to see 135 games played. That will make a statement."

In brief

Axelrod's quality start: Charlotte RHP Dylan Axelrod has been impressive to start the season, going 4-1 with a league-best 1.20 ERA in seven starts. Six of those have been "quality" starts, meaning he has allowed three earned runs or fewer while pitching at least six innings. Axelrod has yet to allow more than two runs in any game, giving up 32 hits and nine walks over 45 innings. The only time he didn't have a quality start was April 17 against Durham, when he lasted 5 1/3 innings.

Familiar faces: Norfolk recently added IF Miguel Tejada, a 15-year pro who has spent time in the Major Leagues with the A's, Orioles, Astros, Padres and Giants. The 38-year-old has hit .381 with four homers and eight RBIs in his first six games with the Tides. Durham recently picked up OF Hideki Matsui, who's spent time in the big leagues with the Yankees, Angels and A's. In his first 11 IL games, the 37-year-old Matsui batted .171 with four RBIs.

He said it: "What a big shot in the arm for [Andres Blanco] and for the team. He was battling on some swings throughout the game with nothing to show for it." -- Lehigh Valley manager Ryne Sandberg to The (Allentown) Morning Call on May 21 after Blanco snapped a 1-for-25 slump with a game-winning homer in the bottom of the 13th inning of the IronPigs' 7-6 triumph over Louisville.

John Wagner is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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